Invisible Fences

We have a new dog. Her name is Weezy. She is a 2 ½ year old Labradoodle who has had two litters of pups for a professional breeder. They like to retire their mommies early so they can also find a nice home and enjoy a family life. It sounds so romantic doesn’t it? And Weezy is such a good little girl. But I have to say I’m surprised that after almost three weeks with my loving family, she is still kind of afraid of us. This move has been pretty traumatic for her. I guess that makes sense—she doesn’t understand that she’s here to stay, that we will always love her, and want to take care of her. She’s used to life in a kennel on a farm. She’s used to having a job: making puppies and taking care of them…and then they disappear. Now she’s brought into a family as a pet—a family with three kids that want to run around and wrestle. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m constantly spinning spiritual analogies from life’s circumstances. So, for the last couple weeks I’ve been considering how we as Christians don’t realize how we’ve been rescued, constantly fighting against the transformation the Spirit is working within us. I could pull an article from that thought for sure. But Weezy made me a little jealous this week. You see, we started training her on the invisible fence. It sends a radio signal, and with a special collar, Weezy hears warning beeps as she is approaching her boundaries. If she is stubborn and ignores the beeps, the collar will give her a little jolt (a very convincing one, apparently). I know what you’re thinking, No wonder your dog is still afraid; her new family has donned her with a shock collar. But she loves it when she gets her collar on to go outside. It symbolizes her freedom to run, as well as clear boundaries to stop. As I’m chasing Weezy around the yard, I find myself wishing my boundaries were so clear. What would it be like if God just gave me a little buzz every time I was moving outside of his will? Well, I would have the confidence to know that when I wasn’t being shocked, I was obediently living in God’s revealed will for my life. I can see why some churches or families can get caught in the trap of legalism. It seems appealing at first, like a safe environment for growth. But while my motivation may be good (wanting to avoid sin and be forced into right living), God doesn’t just focus on the external. I’m not a dog, and my loving Savior does not treat me like one. He graciously gives us his Word, revealing God’s character. We also are equipped with his Holy Spirit, who guides and directs us into right living. But we have to be careful not to turn the Christian life into an extra set of rules that God does not require. Biblical decision making is hard. It requires wisdom. We have to ask for wisdom. Sometimes we miss the boundaries. Why does God allow us to do this? Because he knows there are more important things than merely the external appearance of doing the right thing. He is producing strong people of faith who come to freely desire God himself over everything else. He doesn’t really care about our image in the process. He knows that more rules never make us more spiritual. There are lots of invisible fences we put up in our lives. We set different boundaries, but Christians struggle with God’s will in the entertainment we take in, the clothes we wear, the Bible translation we use, who we date, how we educate, what means of birth control we use, whether to allow Santa Claus to come down our chimney, temperance or teetotalism in alcohol consumption, our amount of personal devotion time in Scripture, and if it’s okay to have lunch out after the Sunday service. I’m sure you can fill in the blank with many more fences. These are those gray areas that the Christian must discern. And I guess what I’m saying is that we should humbly help one another. Sure, we should be developing strong convictions; but where God’s word is silent, let’s not be overly judgmental. He is transforming us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ. As we struggle to be responsible to the loving call he has given us, we trust that he who has began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). Until then, God matures us as we walk by faith. We encourage one another to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord. All the while, our confidence is not in our own works, but in the perfect work of the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ the Son of God. Meditation: Romans 4:13-22