I’m not sure whether or not you’ve ever noticed but the world is basically divided into 2 types of people – those who love dogs and those who love cats. It seems like almost everyone falls into one of these categories. In and of itself this isn’t such a bad thing but where it gets weird is the fact that these group don’t get along at all. There is an enmity between them and crossing such a divide is an act of betrayal. And so, as a result, relationships between dog-lovers and cat-lovers almost always end in disaster.
We have a dog at home. I don’t really love it. It’s not that it is bad but it doesn’t know how to leave me alone. As soon as I open the door he is there with a tennis ball wanting to play. He drops the ball in the washing basket when I try to hang clothes on the line. He gets in my way when I’m walking. He lies across the doorway and doesn’t move. It’s not that I don’t like the dog but I just want to be left alone. In short, I don’t think I’m a dog person.
Before too many people hate me, I should add that I’m not a cat person either. Cats tend to be too solitary. They seem to be interested primarily in themselves. Of course they do come up to their owners but it’s normally when they are hungry. At least this was the case with my Grandfather’s cats. The only time we could pat them was when they were hungry. The rest of the time they spent together.
What’s this got to do with Christianity? Well Christian ‘dog people’ are very social. They love being around people especially those who aren’t followers of Jesus. I once heard someone say that they disliked being around fellow Christians and would only hang out with those who didn’t know Jesus. This is dog language. They love to share Jesus. This is a good thing but not when it is taken to an extreme. Jesus has called his followers to share their faith with others but the context is amongst a community of faith. The mistake that dog people may make is that the sharing of their faith replaces their need for Christian relationships. Taken to the extreme they see themselves as an isolated beacon of Jesus.
Christian ‘cat people’ are also social. They like to hang out with others but for them it is fellow Christians. Historically at times this has caused them to isolate themselves from the ‘outside world’. Cat people aren’t opposed to sharing their faith but it isn’t really their priority. At a conference once I heard a speaker challenging others to try to come up with 10 friends who didn’t follow Jesus – many struggled. For cat people Christianity is all about finding deep relationships that help their faith grow. The problem is obvious. They rightly value the Christian community but do so at the expense of sharing their faith.
Just like the way dog people and cat people don’t get along, Christian dog people and cat people don’t either. The values are too different. And both have faults in that they neglect an essential aspect of Christian faith. What the church needs are people who love both cats and dogs. We need to develop a culture which values both sharing Jesus and relationships with each other. This isn’t an easy thing to do but it was the way of Jesus. The gospels are full of accounts where he is acting for those who don’t follow him. This may be teaching or healing but the emphasis is his call to follow him. Equally, there are plenty of accounts where he is spending time with his disciples explaining things and sharing life together. Jesus managed to be both a dog and cat person in a way that placed value on both of these aspects of our faith.