Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Walls to Climb — Fences to Sit On"

By Tony Harriman  •

In a world without fences would be an interesting place to live, and I suppose we should include walls in the thought.  There are probably many more, but I can think of two sizable walls in our world: Hadrian's Wall in Great Britain, and the Great Wall of China.  The best theory put forth for the purpose of what was known as Hadrian's Wall was to keep out the barbarians — the Scots.  The Wall spans the entire width of the northern portion of England, and much of it survives to this day.  The vast Great Wall of China, so historians tell us, was designed to keep out various nomadic and warlike peoples seeking trouble wherever they went, most notably: the Mongolians.  Those who have been there tell us that the Great Wall of China can be seen from outer space; I'll have to take their word for that, but I'll be happy to check it out … as long as I don't have to pay the bill.

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Some walls, like the Berlin Wall, were designed to keep people in.  Although the Wall was constructed around free West Berlin, in effect the Wall prevented citizens of Soviet-controlled East Berlin and beyond from defecting into the West.  The Wall kept the people inside the Communist world behind the Iron Curtain.

Some fences keep bad dogs out; some keep bad dogs in.  And we're happy for both — mostly.  Some fences, like those found in zoos, keep the wild animals from tearing up the visiting public; while others are placed to protect the wildlife from poachers.  Most barriers have a purpose.

Walls and fences are constructed around prisons and detention centers to prevent inmates getting out and causing havoc among the rest of society.  I have sometimes found myself guilty of wishing there were walls and fences like these around some of the nations that spawn and engender hate groups bent on the destruction of anyone not believing the way they do.  But I have a hard time defending the concept, since there are many other people living in those nations that don't wish evil upon the rest of us in the free world.

Throughout all of Great Britain are dry stone walls made up of the rocks gathered from the land on which the walls themselves were built; they were built to keep valuable livestock from getting lost and wandering onto a neighbor's property.  The walls did a pretty decent job of keeping animals in, but did nothing to keep predators out, so if a wolf (once incredibly prevalent in Britain) or a fox got in among the sheep, the prey had no way of escape.  An interesting tidbit here is that a large number of the fields surrounded by the walls have a public right-of-way going through them, so that members of the public may enjoy almost all of the British countryside.  This concept is foreign to Americans, but very much missed by English people living in the USA.

In my short Christian walk, I have occasionally landed on the concept of the Law of God being a "hedge," or "wall" around those people who honor and keep that Law; a wall which keeps those within the wall safe from harm.  I'd like to take a moment and peel back some of the layers of that thought.

To dive right in, what harm might this "wall" or "hedge" keep someone safe from?  Surely the reference cannot be to anything physical.  The original "keepers" of the Law, the Israelites, suffered constant abuse at the hands of their oppressors.  "Only when they were disobedient," you say.  Really?  How will you demonstrate that?  Are we to believe that there were none in days of old who chose to honor the Law of God?  No Moses?  No Brother Job?  No nice young Joseph?  No Elijah?  All of these appeared to have been very special to God, wouldn't you say?  Half of the four were taken to Holy Heaven.  And shall we say that no physical harm befell them?  Even when the Israelites WERE obedient, shall we imagine that no one ever got sick, or died of old age?  Surely when Jesus was here it could have  been argued that if anyone could keep the Law properly, it was Him — No?  And did no evil befall the Son of God?  "He had to be sacrificed," you say.  Yes, but was it necessary for him to be slapped so hard that he should cry out, "If I've done evil, bear witness of that evil"?

Take a quick trip through the pages of time and see many of the faithful who have been fed to lions; burnt at the stake; crucified; slaughtered and burned in the Nazi ovens.  Will you be so self-righteous as to say that these had not the faith that "I" have.

So what shall we say that this Holy Law keeps us safe from?  Well, try this: it keeps us safe from self-inflicted pain; pain that comes from stealing, unfaithfulness, lying, cheating.  Add to the list that which perhaps brings the deepest heartache that a man can experience; that of trying to charge our batteries from a power source for which we are not fitted.  We were designed to be energized by the Breath of God — His Spirit.  This Spirit appears to be unlike any AC or DC we can imagine.  Trying to live any other way would be like trying to live solely on multi-vitamins.  This Spirit, which has neither name nor apparent origin, seems akin to that energy which emanates constantly from the sun; the same sun that is chased across the sky by mindless vegetation which has been programmed to feed off the free solar energy pouring down from the heavens.

No matter how much you dwell behind this wall, or fence, one day you are going to physically die.  Even now you are wasting away little by little.  Every year sees the loss of cell integrity throughout your physical frame, from your head to your feet.  But remember this: God cares less for your body than He does for your soul.  yes, you need your physical body to develop your soul, but in the world of the spirit, there is not so much need for a temple like the one you have now.

It seems, then, that the Law of God is designed to keep your soul safe behind the wall; but the wall will not keep you safe "physically" from your enemies.

Stories of God's protection are abundant on the lips of those who survive.  But what else do you expect?  What shall we say of the hundreds of thousands whose voices are silent, having been washed away by the tsunami?  What testimony has been borne by those buried and perished beneath the rubble of the Twin Towers?  Are we to believe that these many souls had not the faith to be saved?  Those who survive rarely attribute the saving of their lives to some act of faith on their part, and are often bewildered as to why they should have been spared in the first place.  The many records of those who did go down in faith have been sealed by their executioners, and shall we be brazen enough to suggest that such a fate awaits not my life?  There are people living today who have seen such inhumanity on the planet they believed they would never see.  Just because the pain hasn't yet come by your door is no cause for you to believe that it never will.

A little side turn here — sort of.  In past posts to this Blog I have mentioned one of our dogs, Lucy, who was a wanderer and a thief.  This was the dog that would return home from who-knows-where with a boot, a fluffy toy, a used diaper, a dead chicken — whatever.  We had no idea how far she wandered; certainly further than our immediate neighbors, because I tried on occasion to return the things she had stolen, without success.  Well, a week ago she returned home with a gunshot wound; it could have been something else, but to us it looked like what it was.  The wound was bad enough that it would have cost hundreds of dollars just to go through the first layer to find out what the real internal damage was.  The option we chose was to have her put to sleep.  Though the decision was painful, it was reasonable; patching her up would not have been a fix for her nature.  Lucy didn't care about fences; she could go over or under any obstacle in her quest to steal something that was not hers.  Sure, we could spend a fortune and build a fence that could keep in ANY animal, and keep out ANY predator, but Lucy's heart was always pining for that greener stuff on the other side.  We miss her, and try to think only of the things we loved about her.  But living outside the fence ultimately caused her death.

It doesn't appear to me that the Law of God is something designed to keep ANYTHING in or out.  A man or woman is free at any time to pass right through this invisible fence, either way.  The only thing the wall does is keep safe the soul of anyone WILLINGLY behind it.  That which cannot be seen or handled — our souls — will never be harmed by those who have no respect for the wall.  And don't be surprised when you see an intruder behind the fence.  Someone once said that churches are full of intruders, only seen properly when the light shines.

Though I really don't like them, I tolerate walls and fences — for now.  But I must admit, I am looking forward to a world which has no need for such divisions.  Bring it on.

And that's just my take on it ….

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