I have a dog called Dexter. He’s a sweet and gentle creature. He’s good with children and other dogs. He’s a tremendous companion and friend.

We in Britain are a nation of pet lovers. We own more than eight million dogs and about the same number of cats. We spend in excess of £4 billion each year on them.

Domestic pets are companions, friends and members of the family. They shape our lives, our time, our holidays, our friendships and our relationships.

In the past I’ve taken Dexter when I’m visiting residential homes. It’s a delight to see the residents’ eyes light up. Dexter becomes a source of gentle touch; tactile friendship. There’s a peaceful serenity and joy when he sits next to someone. An intimacy and a friendship perhaps not known by some of these people for many years.

If you’re a pet owner you’ll understand this. If you’re not it’ll sound weird.

And there’s something else too. My dog displays some attributes I, as a Christian, stand in total awe of. I try, and often fail, to live my life as Christ would wish it. It is a struggle. Yet I see in my dog a capacity for love and compassion I can only hope for.

Dexter doesn’t care if the man in the street stinks of urine. If the old lady hasn’t washed for weeks. If the teenager is covered in tattoos or body piercings. He approaches each with the same loving, non-judgemental eye. He doesn’t care about class, colour, race. You don’t even have to love him. He will simply offer his love to you and if you take it he’s happy.

Isn’t that what loving one’s neighbour is really about? In John’s gospel it says this “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”(15:12) Its simplicity belies the extraordinary challenge to us today. Each of us is called to love one another without distinction. Just like Dexter does.

With Easter passed let’s put that high on our ‘to-do’ list!

Love one another.