Rehabilitation and Discipleship

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Mathew 28:19-20

Have you ever watched The Dog Whisperer? Have you ever adopted a rescue dog? If you’ve done either, then you probably understand a thing or two about rehabilitation. One of my favourite episodes of The Dog Whisperer is one in which Cesar Millan brings his well-trained Pit bull, Daddy, to help rehabilitate another dog. (I tried to find it on YouTube, but I couldn’t. And yes, I know that episode description is incredibly vague, but I couldn’t find any specific episodes, or think of what the specific episode was. I know that it was an episode though! XD )

This makes me think of a time when my dogs helped to rehabilitate my friend’s dog. My friend adopted a rescue dog a while back and named her Emma. I don’t know what kind of a home Emma was rescued from, but she seemed like she was very neglected. So neglected in fact, that when my friend fed her healthy portions of food, Emma couldn’t digest it properly. Her body literally did not know what to do with it. The way the vet put it was that her body had been malnourished for so long that her cells were clinging onto the food particles and letting very little pass through her system.

She wouldn’t run and play with the kids. She would cuddle (oh she loves to cuddle), and she loved when people would pet her and give her treats, but other than that she just didn’t know how to be a dog.

For months my friend and her family tried to get the dog to play, but she just wouldn’t. One day we decided to bring over our rescue dog, Selena. We had her for years, and even though she had a lot of anxiety when we first got her, she eventually became a very balanced dog. Their little play date went great! Selena didn’t mind that Emma didn’t know how to play. She was perfectly content to sniff things and hang out with Emma, which meant no stress for Emma. It was a perfect introduction into dog-hood.

However, Emma still didn’t know how to play. So a while later we brought our dog Manasseh over, and after he investigated his surroundings and found some lose pieces of kibble around Emma’s dish, we brought them out to the back yard to play. Emma immediately laid down on the grass while Manasseh sniffed around the yard. After he was satisfied with his investigation he ran back to Emma. He was not content to just hang out. He wanted to play, and he was determined to play with Emma. He spent an hour pulling on her collar, shoving toys in her face, running around her with a stick in his mouth, and taking brief moments here and there to lay down and whimper at her. (More like whine at her.)

Finally, Emma decided to try playing like a dog. She got up and timidly attempted to wrestle with Manasseh, and when my friend saw this she said, “Good Girl!” and encouraged Emma to try playing some more. Suddenly Emma’s disposition changed. She perked up and pounced on Manasseh, then jumped back wagging her tail. She still didn’t fully understand play, but she was ready to learn, and Manasseh was all geared up to teach her.

Before long Emma and Manasseh were chasing each other around the yard, and Emma even played fetch with me. My friend was so happy and touched that she looked like she was going to cry. To me this was a very simple picture of discipleship. Some people need a kind of discipleship that is relaxed and easy-going, and others need a kind of discipleship that is irritatingly persistent. Some need both, and others need something in between.

The most important part of discipleship though, is the new master. Trying to disciple someone who is not saved is like trying to rehabilitate a dog that still spends each day with an abusive master. It’s ineffective. Whatever progress that might be made will likely be undone when you have to go elsewhere to do other things. Think about what made Emma drastically change. It was when my friend said “Good girl!” and encouraged her. She changed when her new master told her what was good. Her disposition did a 180 when her new master encouraged her attempts to play. The new master is crucial. We can make all the attempts of discipleship we want, but unless whomever we are trying to disciple doesn’t already have Jesus, no real change is going to occur, because their flesh (or even Satan) will still have power in that person’s life. No rescue organization will try to rehabilitate a dog that hasn’t been rescued yet, right? Rescue first, rehabilitate second. A new master is crucial.

Slaves to Righteousness

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:15-23

Thank you for reading my blog. 🙂


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