Recently a newspaper ran a little item which I would like to
share with you. It was titled: “In Times of Stress, Just Call on
Rover”. It goes like this:
When it comes to times of stress, the most reassuring
companion isn’t your sweetheart – it’s your schnauzer.
A study has found that people who were under stress showed
the least amount of tension when accompanied by their dog.
The stress levels were highest when the people were with
their husbands or wives.
“I think that dogs are non-evaluative, and they love us”,
said Karen Allen, a research scientist at State University
of New York at Buffalo’s medical school.
This item caught my attention, not because of what it says about
stress and our spouses — I don’t happen to find its
assertion in this regard to be true in my experience.
NO, it caught my attention because of what asserts about how dogs
love us – and of the benefits that kind of love has.
There is something very biblical in the assertion made by Ms.
Allen that non-evaluative love, non-judgmental love, reduces
In fact the scriptures testify that this kind of love does far
more than reduce tension –
it in fact gives life – it gives hope – it gives assurance –
to all who receive it.
Non-judgmental – accepting – all embracing love is the essence of
the gospel message: it lies behind such statements as:
“Do not judge others lest you be judged – for the judgment
you give will be the judgment you receive”
and it is at the root of what has happened whenever we find Jesus
being criticized by the scribes and Pharisees for the company
that he keeps.
Jesus accepts and embraces those whom others find wanting.
He loves those who seem unlovable – to others – and to
I’m not much of gardener, but one thing I do know is that every
plant needs water to grow.
And I know this as well – the plants that are in the driest soil:
– the ones that are struggling the hardest and beginning to
– the ones whose leaves are beginning to curl and which look
worse than the rest
need more water than those who are in damp ground and whose
leaves are rich and full of moisture.
And I know too dry plants respond better to water than they
do to added heat –
that they thrust down their roots to where they can find it
or turn their leaves over so that they better receive it –
and receiving it – they change – they begin to look better – they
begin to grow – and at length – they produce the fruit they
have been designed to produce.
We are the plants in God’s garden –
placed here for a reason and a purpose –
and some of us are awfully dry – and some of us aren’t.
But each one of us, whether we be dry or moist at this very
moment, needs the living water that Jesus says he has come to
– that water which wells up to eternal life,
– that water which overflows and brings life to other plants near
I give thanks to God today for his love – for that love shown by
Christ – that love which was poured out to me when I was withering
and perishing as a young man – alone in a large city
and which even now is poured out upon me -even though I am far
from perfect –
I give thanks for his love which has given me hope that I never
had, a peace that at one time I could only long for, and an
assurance I thought I would never see at work in my life.
In giving thanks before you today I do what thousands, indeed
millions of people have done before me, I do what the woman at
the well did after first encountering Jesus:
I point to the one who is the Saviour promised from long ago,
I point to the one who has accepted me
– the one who calls me brother and does not hold my human
failings against me,
– the one who encourages me and challenges me and never – even
when I argue with him – rejects or condemns me.
That is what Jesus did with the woman at the well. He accepted
He accepted her though she was a Samaritan and an enemy to his
He spoke to her of God though she was a woman and not thought
worthy of such conversation.
He offered her his blessing – even though she debated with him
and questioned his statements.
He regards her as a dear sister – and gives her the same title of
endearment he gave Mary when he calls her woman in verse 21 and
asks her to believe his words concerning how the time is coming
when true worshippers will worship Father in Spirit and in Truth.
And that is why she sang his praises in her village.
Because of his acceptance – because of his love.
It was not just because he knew her past –
It was not just because he could tell her things that no stranger
should know that she spoke of him to her friends and neighbors.
It was because in knowing her —
In knowing her nationality
her religious attitudes
And the mixed history of her marriages
he none-the-less treats her as if she was an equal,
as if she was a person worthy of respect
worthy of affection –
worthy of love.
And that is where it is at.
When we treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated
– when we can talk to kings and to beggars and not show any
preferences to the one and not the other,
– when we can debate with sinners and with saints – and have both
feel that you respect them
– when we can open our homes to both friends and strangers – and
have both feel welcomed
– when we can encounter people and not judge them – not put them
down – not patronize them –
then we know something of God’s love
then we show something of God’s love.