Summer: (1) Noun–a season of the year; (2) the name of our Golden Retriever. Over our 35 years of marriage we’ve had essentially three big dogs: Lady, a Lab-Golden mix who looked like a 100% Lab we enjoyed 1982-1994; Precious, who was with us from around 1996-2007; and Summer. We’ve also had dachshunds, but I’m partial to the big dogs.
Summer is a typical Golden, reminding us daily why the breed remains one of American’s favorites. She loves to fetch and enjoys affectionate hugs, and is demonstrably gentle.
But there’s more: Summer barks with gusto at feeding time. Barks, as in like a dog. She has never quacked like a duck, slithered like a snake, or climbed a tree like an ape.
I’ve never seen her fly like an eagle or walk (or talk) like an Egyptian. She has fur, not scales, and is warm, not cold blooded. She has large canine teeth rather than a beak.
I can’t seem to get her to paint the house or mow the lawn. I wish I could teach her to wash the car with her furry tail.
Of course I can’t, and for good reason. It’s the same reason she neither flies nor quacks. She is a dog. She does what does, and she does it well.
You are not a dog. Or a duck, or a snake. But if you know Christ, you are not only a physically born human, you are a born from above believer.
Be who you are.
I learned four truths about sharing Jesus in part from the pets I’ve loved.
First, you are a witness for Jesus. Sharing Jesus is not a goal to attain, it’s a reality to embrace. This was established when He saved you. You are a “living epistle” for Jesus to others (2 Cor. 3:2). “But I can’t talk about Jesus to others,” you say. Sure you can. Just talk about what you know about Jesus now, and keep learning more. A retriever is naturally loyal and affectionate, a greyhound lean and fast, and a bloodhound owns an uncanny sense of smell. Each is unique, but they are all dogs. You may not witness like your pastor or an evangelist, but a witness is who you are as much as Summer is a retriever. Don’t try to be who you aren’t, but do be Whose you are.
Second, you are to witness to the power of the gospel. It’s not about you or your ability, but God and His. What if we decided Summer should be a Cardinal? We would feed her only birdseed. Soon, she would grow weak and ultimately die from malnourishment. A dog needs certain nutrients for strength. A dog is not a bird. You and I have been given the spiritual food of the Word and the Holy Spirit to feed us! Don’t confuse your witness with His power, but instead witness in His power. Acts 1:8 tells us we have the power of the Spirit. That’s a truth worth living.
Third, share Christ out of the person you are uniquely as God made you. The three retrievers we’ve had all act like retrievers, but each had her own personality. Lady, our first one, freaked out in storms. Summer gets nervous but nothing like Lady. Lady was extremely protective. Precious was a huge ball of love. While each believer is a witness, we are all unique. If you aren’t an extrovert, you aren’t a failure as a witness! If you are a hospitable person, think of ways to host people in your home, and as a part of your time together share the story of how God brought you to where you are today. If you love to serve, find places in your community to serve others, and speak about the Savior Who came not to be served but to serve.
Retrievers have webbed paws because they are fantastic swimmers, but dachshunds are far better at digging. I do think Summer gets confused with our dachshunds when she digs up moles in the backyard. Learn your strengths and interests and leverage those for Jesus. Stop trying to conform to the image of your idea of a witness, and give your life to conforming to the image of Christ. You will come to understand that sharing Christ is not about becoming someone you aren’t but simply being the person you are–in Christ.
Fourth, while God re-birthed you as a witness to Christ, you can become more skilled and more comfortable sharing Christ. Lady could catch a frisbee thrown across a field and once literally intercepted a long pass with a nerf football. Precious and Summer will fetch, but neither developed the catching skills of Lady. Still, they all learned specific skills from their master. Our Master has much to teach us!
I’ve been a believer for decades, but I’ve already learned some things this year about sharing Jesus. I’m always learning. Your effectiveness can grow as you put to practice the things you learn about sharing Jesus, but who you are–a witness for Him–was established at your conversion.
Dogs are great. But they will never be a person. You and I have gifts, abilities, and the gospel message, unlike anything else in creation. Let’s live it, show it, and share it, just as God saved us to do.