Some years ago I heard of cat and dog ‘theology’. Reducing theological perspectives to generalities about cats and dogs is anthropomophism to extreme (is there such a category as ‘animalmorphism’?!). But I never forgot it! In part because I think in simple terms. In part because of my experience with cats and dogs.

I acknowledge that my experience has led me to a generalization which may not match your experience. But here is mine. ‘Ace’ is the cat. Ace belongs to my daughter who left for college six years ago. Ace didn’t leave. So now for almost 13 years Ace has given me a taste of life with a cat. The one thing that strikes me about Ace is that she relates to me on her terms. When she wants something she shows up. When she doesn’t she refuses to acknowledge my presence.

‘Jody’ is the dog (one of many we had when I was a kid). Jody never tired of playing with me. She always showed up. She never turned her tail on us and walked away. We loved her and it felt like she loved me! I know this is not true of all dogs, but it was true of Jody (and every other dog we had).

Cat and Dog Theology makes the obvious point. About God and about us. God relates to us like a dog, not a cat. And God wants us to respond like a dog, not a cat. Cats seem narcissistic (a generalization … forgive me all cat lovers!). Dogs seem self-giving (again, a generalization … forgive me all who have been bit by a dog!).

In Christ we have the most complete and compelling picture of God’s self-giving. God gave God to death. Whether it is dog-like or cat-like the picture is clear. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). Now we are invited,by grace, to enter the same love for God and others. “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you … the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:12-13).

I confess that I have grown fond of Ace. Even when she turns and walks away. Maybe it is because I am becoming more like Jody!

“Lord, in your mercy, give me the grace to love as you love. Amen.”