(No time to write today. Please enjoy a low mileage previously posted article)
Dear friends Nelson and Suzie deserted us to go live in the Texas Hill Country. We tried to lure them back with Biblical admonitions.
“You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north.” Deuteronomy 2:3
But they have ignored our wisdom and have settled in the rolling hills between Austin and San Antonio. One of our friend’s challenges of country living was making sure that their dog Pepper would not wander away. Pepper is about 10 pounds of pure attitude.
He needed to be safely restrained from animals that were not intimidated by blustering small packages. So Nelson installed an underground fence to keep Pepper at bay. For those who don’t know about this innovation, underground fencing is a wired perimeter with a radio antenna. When the dog approaches the wired boundary it sends out a signal that activates a battery in the dog’s collar. The battery causes a shock similar to static electricity, and the dog backs off. The field of radio waves can be adjusted so that the dog does not get too close to the edge of the property before hearing the warning tone.
The collars have settings from 1 to 6 with the highest being a pretty good little shock. Pepper sailed through the restraining area when his collar was set on 2. So Nelson decided to skip right by setting 3 and go directly to 4. He reported that the new dance that Pepper invented demonstrated that four might be a tad high and the optimal setting became 3. But there is an interesting aspect to the “invisible fence”. (Invisible Fence is a trademarked brand name developed by Richard Peck in the mid-70’s and they are still a leader manufacturer of the systems).
The dog remembers what happened the last time they went near the boundary so they don’t even try. Some owners report that they take off the collar and the dog remains unwilling to risk leaving the yard because of that “shocking” memory. It occurred to me that Satan operates a lot like that in the lives of Christians. Once we have been shocked by a bad experience with a bad Christian or jolted by a relationship gone bad we remember the pain. And we are restrained by that invisible fence of what might happen if we try again. We read God’s Word and we know (intellectually) that we need to cross that boundary to repair those relationships or to try again with other folks.
But here is what happens with me. I remember the pain. I am afraid that if I approach that person again I might get hurt all over again. Who knows…maybe they will turn their pain setting up a notch or two and it will only hurt more. I start believing that if I cross the boundary to to risk a new relationship I will just get shocked one more time. Why should I even try?
But the reality is that God has given me the Holy Spirit and He can gently remove the collar of bondage we choose to wear. I have come to realize that it is a choice I make. That collar of fear has no power to hurt or restrain me. I only think it does. And I remain constrained and defeated by an invisible fence that Satan has constructed. Paul exhorted the church in Rome to dare to be different. Take chances. Love and serve one another. And if someone does hurt you the justice belongs, not to you or me, but to God.
Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically. Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful. When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night. If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written,
“I will take vengeance;
I will repay those who deserve it,”
says the Lord.
Instead, do what the Scriptures say:
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink,
and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.”
Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12, NLT)
Paul was a smart guy. He knew human nature. He knew this wasn’t an easy assignment. But he believed it was possible and so do I. Living in real community with this flawed assembly of fellow travelers is hard. It is messy. I have spent too many sad days restrained by the invisible fence of fear that I will be hurt again. I decided to take the risk and try again. If I get zapped again that is the risk I have chosen to take. But I suspect the barrier is in my mind and God will clear the way if I move in obedience and trust.
I would wager most of you have an invisible fence or two in your life. Can you trust Jesus enough to venture out in faith to conquer whatever is keeping you restrained in your spirit? Don’t allow it to hinder your joy or your influence for the Lord. What’s in for you and me?
Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom. (I Cor 3, NLT)
The Spirit of the Lord does not desire for us to be fenced in by the bondage of fear and by invisible fences that keep us from reaching the places God wants to go. To quote the late Ronald Reagan…”Tear down that fence!”