How Getting a Puppy Helped Me to Obey the Great Commission
Yesterday Brian preached about the Great Commission, which is Jesus’ last words to the disciples before ascending to heaven. Jesus tells his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all of my commandments. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Like Brian, this command to go make disciples has always filled me with trepidation. I also had visions of being a street preacher and converting people like Peter did in Acts 2 and 3. In my sophomore or junior year of high school a friend and I actually went into the quad during lunch and preached (yelled) at our classmates to follow Jesus. I’m pretty sure we told them that if they didn’t listen to us then they would go to hell or face judgement or something. 3,000 of my classmates were saved that day. Just kidding. I don’t think anyone responded except with blank stares.
Ever since that day I’ve been confused about what it means to follow this great commission. If Paul says that not everyone has the same gifts and mine clearly isn’t evangelism, am I off the hook? (Get it? Fishers of men?)
I mean, I’m introverted. I don’t like talking to people, which means people usually don’t like talking to me because I inadvertently put off bad vibes. I serve in church. Isn’t that good enough? I’ll talk with people about Jesus after those extroverts bring them into the church where it’s safe.
About a month ago my wife and I decided to get a dog (whereby I mean my wife insisted we get a dog and I begrudgingly acquiesced). We named him Barnaby (whereby I mean I convinced our friends that Barnaby was the perfect name and my wife gave in). He’s very adorable. I fell in love with him instantly and we’ve been best buds ever since. In fact, he’s peacefully sleeping on my lap as I type this.
I knew getting a puppy would mean having to potty train him, feed him, walk him, play with him, etc. What I didn’t know was that Barnaby would be forcing me outside of my apartment and into interactions with neighbors. I didn’t know that taking him out to pee would mean I would meet people that are hurting and desperate for love. I didn’t know that he would force me to share about my life with others. I didn’t know that walking my dog would mean meeting someone who was drenched from sleeping out in the rain and giving him dry socks and shoes.
I don’t tell you all this to make you feel guilty or to talk up how great I am. I’m not great; Saint Barnaby is. God is using this little puppy to get me out into the world and talking with people. It doesn’t always mean I share the gospel explicitly; sometimes I only get to act out the gospel. It does mean that I’m learning to trust God in ways that I haven’t before so that I can obey his commands like a faithful disciple.
I’m not saying you have to get a puppy to fulfill the great commission, but if you’re like me and the commission paralyzes you, at least start praying about it. Ask God to show you how to live out this commission. Ask for opportunities to share your faith. God is our Father; he wants to see us grow into mature sons and daughters. Ask him to give you space and courage to love your friends, family, and neighbors by sharing the gospel.
Following Jesus into the world is always a scary at first, but we don’t have to do it alone. I think that’s why Jesus reminds his disciples at the end of the Great Commission that he’s with us. We aren’t going out alone, we’re following Jesus into the world to do what we see him doing.