“Do not wait for
leaders; do it alone, person to person.” –
Earlier this year, a German Shepherd rescue dog
named Haus saved his family’s seven-year-old
daughter from a deadly Eastern Diamondback
rattlesnake. The snake found its way into the
family’s back yard and approached the young
girl, Molly. Her grandmother was watching Molly
playing with Haus. Suddenly Haus began jumping
back and forth. Haus placed himself between
Molly and the dangerous snake. “He kept taking
hits,” said Molly’s mother. The dog
instinctively recognized the danger but stood
his ground. He was bitten at least three times.
Afterward, Haus was in critical condition and in
danger of kidney damage due to the level of
rattlesnake venom in his blood but he survived.
This story appeals to me for two reasons, first
as a dog lover and second as a Christian. It’s
been said that there’s a reason why the word
“dog” spelled backward is “God.” I don’t know
about that but I do know Haus is a hero and he’s
not alone. Dogs have been protecting humans for
thousands of years. People sometimes say dogs
“think they’re people” but the truth is that
dogs think humans are big, funny-looking dogs.
Dogs have a pack mentality; they form group
attachments to their human families and think of
us as their “pack.”
Of course, Haus the German Shepherd also reminds
me of Jesus the good shepherd. Jesus
said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd
lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11
NRSV). He continued by saying “I lay down my
life in order to take it up again. No one takes
it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
(John 10:17b-18a NRSV). He placed himself
between us and death. He suffered a far worse
fate than snakebite. He died a horrible death on
a cross, possibly the most horrific kind of
death known at the time.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich
Bonhoeffer wrote that Jesus “. . .
stands between us and God,
. . . he is the sole Mediator in the world . .
.” We have a savior who stands
between us and the divine wrath we
deserve. The psalmist asked, “Who can
stand before you when once your anger is
roused?” (Psa. 76:7b NRSV). But God doesn’t
condemn us. Instead, God made a way for us to be
righteous. John wrote that “We know love by
this, that he laid down his life for us—and we
ought to lay down our lives for one another.” (1
John 3:16 NRSV).
In the Old Testament, some of the people, led by
a man named Korah, rebelled against Moses (Num.
16:1). The earth opened up and swallowed them
(vs. 31-32) but the next day there were others
who continued to rebel and they were struck by a
plague (vs. 46). Moses’ brother, Aaron, took a
censer and “stood between the dead and the
living;” and prevented further death (vs. 48a
NRSV). As a result, many people were saved.
(Some of you might recall this story from the June, 2007
Person-2-Person.) Jesus did the same thing
for us. He stood between us and death, between
humanity and God’s wrath. He stood firm and
didn’t waver. He held his ground. The author of
Hebrews wrote that Jesus “. . . is able for
all time to save those who approach God through
him, since he always lives to make intercession
for them.” (Heb. 7:25 NRSV). We can always count
on him to hold fast against the condemnation we
Regardless of what we might think of Haus,
there’s no doubt Molly and her family think Haus
is the best dog in the world. But young Molly
didn’t care whether he was a hero or not.
Instead, she said of her protector, “He's a cute
dog. I like to smoosh his face.” She simply
loves Haus and she’d love him even if he hadn’t
saved her young life. She loves him because he’s
her dog. In the same way, God loves us and gave
Jesus for us as a result of that love (Eph. 5:2,
1 John 3:16). There’s nothing we can do to merit
God’s love. We can know that we have a wonderful
savior. God loves us even though there’s nothing
we can do to earn that love. The story of that
love—what our savior has done for us and how
he’s shaped our own story—is worth telling.
“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did
not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for
all of us, will he not with him also give us
everything else? Who will bring any charge
against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died,
yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of
God, who indeed intercedes for us.” (Rom.