The Devotion to Christ – We all need a solid fence

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My new neighbor recently told me the homeowner before us did not keep up the yard for years. The grass was knee high, weeds were hip high, saplings all over the place were fighting for sunlight and poison ivy was everywhere. The wilderness had been beaten back in some areas at the property line, but attention was still needed.

After settling in, we noticed several large dogs, some very rough looking, meandering through our property as though they owned it. We were also seeing field rats the size of squirrels and hearing stories of the occasional coyote. One neighbor was catching images on his game camera of a six-foot tall black bear! How were we to protect our dog, our three goats, and our eight chickens from all of this local wildlife? Of vastly more importance, how were we to protect our five children?

As a dad, I’m completely responsible for the protection of my children, but with so many possible threats and the business of life, how am I to keep watch? I suppose that I can beat back the wilderness even farther, but with no wall or boundary, there can be no rest. I want to be at my post and at the ready, but will I be able to do so? What can I utilize to assist with defense and protection, as well as allowing for freedom of play, recreation and rest?

It seems like a good time for a solid fence.

What does a fence do, and how is it spiritually instructive? A good fence, just like the way of life prescribed by Jesus’s commands, keeps the good things in and the bad things out. It removes (or at least mitigates) threats while creating space for peace and freedom.

Every wild animal and every criminal are alike in one thing – they love only themselves and are looking for an easy score. The animal seeks the young and weak, as they will not be able to put up a good fight or strong resistance (1 Peter 5:8). Is it different with the kidnapper or thief (John 10:10)? Evil, when pursuing its prey, meets a wall of resistance that causes pause. It meets the fence and is faced with the difficulty of getting what it wants. As a result, the good can continue to dwell in relative freedom and joy. Within the fence there is opportunity to make an escape when an enemy is at the gate.

But there comes time where the good may become curious and tempted, “did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1). Wanting to rebel and explore while being wooed by the darkness, we sometimes wonder if our freedom is a prison. Tip-toeing towards danger, we meet a wall of resistance that causes pause. We have the opportunity to return to our first love and continue to live in peace and freedom, for the boundary is not a prison; rather, it is our hope to “have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 again!). So, there is freedom in the fence.

But what is freedom?

Freedom does not mean we are free to do “whatever the heck we want.” No, that is the world’s version of freedom, and that version is a temporary and deadly lie (1 John 2:17) that sounds eerily similar to the serpent’s lie in the garden.

To be sure, freedom is being finally able to do what’s right. Jesus Christ has come to free us from sin, which gives us the capacity to obey God’s law (Galatians 5:1), and “if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:31-36). But that very freedom from sin must be guarded and protected, and space must be created to allow for it to thrive.

Our fence serves as The 50 Commands of Christ. Living free is being freed from the domination of sin and living out that freedom in obedience to Christ. The thin line of separation between the one who comes to destroy and the One Who brings life is the good fence. Beloved, live free and live in obedience to Jesus Christ.

Brian Cook is a Cropwell native and a graduate of Pell City High School, Gadsden State Community College and studied music and history at Jacksonville State. He and his wife Hope have five children. A self-described “on-again-off-again bi-vocational part-time” Protestant minister for almost 20 years, Brian converted to Catholicism in April 2021. They attend Saint James Catholic Church in Gadsden. With no formal training (Acts 4:13), Brian is active in the Catechetical training of children and adults. His book “The Devotion to Christ” can be found on Amazon. He is available for speaking and teaching engagements in any parish, church, or group setting. He may be contacted at thedtc@protonmail.com or thedevotiontochrist@gmail.com.

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