But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be like your Father in heaven…Matthew 5:44-45 (NETFull)

Alley was the most lovable, huggable, happy tail-wagger of a golden retriever I ever met. In her fourteen years she never so much as growled at the children who laid on her or tugged her velvety ears.

If I had bound Alley with a chain when she was a puppy, and every passerby kicked her or threw stones, it would have changed her temperament. She would have snapped at humans or become a shaking heap of fear.

Many of us are like abused dogs. We are mistreated most of our lives. Before children have their permeant teeth, they have callouses on their hearts from gossip, rejection, and unfaithfulness. Then the victim grows into a perpetrator.

Only mercy and love have any hope of breaking the cycle. Mercy heals wounds, and love restores hearts to the innocence of infancy. Sometimes violence can only be stopped with force. But punitive action merely interrupts the trauma, it doesn’t resolve the root problem. The only way to cure a bitter heart is with undeserved grace and unwavering love.

The next time someone barks hostility at me, I hope I remember they are an abused puppy. They were born joyful but others beat them until they only knew how to snarl. I want to show mercy, and extend love. To do less, to reply to vileness with anger, is to concede the battle. I’m called to stop the cycle, to live heroically and respond with the same mercy and love that Jesus showed me. 

That’s what Alley would do.

Prayer: Father, send an abused puppy that needs mercy and love today.