I recall reading in James Dobson’s book Dare to Discipline about an experiment on a playground at a school where the children primarily hung near the buildings during recess until they built a fence around the school property. Then the children felt safer and utilized the whole area for their playtime. We witnessed a similar thing in our neighborhood recently. A new family with young children had moved into a home that is on our walking route. We noticed the same thing happen. The place had no fence and the children hung out next to the house. But then the parents built a cute little fence out of pallets and now the children play in the whole yard around the house.
One of the principles of life is that “freedom has fences,” i.e., true freedom comes only when we live within the boundaries that are placed around us to protect us. Many think that freedom comes from removing all the fences, getting rid of all restraints, but that ultimately leads to bondage to our old sinful natures. We all recently saw an example of that in the CHOP district in Seattle. Getting rid of authority and police protection and rules and regulations leads to anarchy and chaos—it always has and always will. You would think we would have learned from examples in history, but it seems many have to find out for themselves.
From the very beginning of creation and the history of mankind, God placed restrictions or boundaries upon us. Adam and Eve were free to eat the fruit of any tree in the Garden of Eden except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, saying, “for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Satan convinced Eve that God was not being fair or truthful and said, “You surely shall not die!” (Gen. 3:3). Eve believed Satan’s lie and she and her husband both ate of the forbidden tree and today we live in a world of sin and chaos as a result. We all inherited the sinful nature that resulted from that act of disobedience (Ro. 5:12,19) and have the tendency to listen to Satan’s lies and to disobey God’s commands.
The sinful heart of man thinks that if we can throw off all of God’s restraints–like the protection of human life from conception to the grave, like marriage being for one man and one woman, like sex being reserved for marriage, like doing our own work honestly to provide a living for our family, like worshiping only the one true God and not substituting gods of our own making, like treating others with kindness and respect and not envying and coveting what they have, like submitting to the authorities God has placed over us—that we will really be free. But, God has placed those boundaries around us because with our old, sinful natures, we need them.They are for our safety and security. Without them, man does only “that which is right in his own eyes” as they did during the “dark ages” of Israel’s history, a period of some 350 years of seven cycles of sin, slavery, supplication and salvation. We cannot experience true freedom without living within the boundaries God has set down for us.
Our nation just celebrated our 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom from the restraints place upon our people by Great Britain. For the most part our nation was living within the guidelines that are laid out in God’s Word, the Bible. It was even the only textbook for awhile in our schools. It doesn’t mean there was no disobedience to God’s commands, but as a nation we trusted in God and His Word and the “fences” set down within which to operate freely. Then gradually there was a movement to “tear down the fences,” to eliminate God’s Word and all its restrictions and gradually our legislators started listening to the voices of those who wanted to practice things that God’s Word condemns and passed laws, upheld by the courts, to allow such practices. Those who opposed were made out to be “intolerant” and “politically incorrect,” and hateful. Slowly the voice of reason—based on the principles of God’s Word—has been squelched and now we are witnessing a nation that is struggling and polarized and experiencing violent protests, hatred, looting, killing and lack of respect for authority, even asking that we defund the very ones who have the responsibility to protect us and to keep us within the boundaries that remain. Wow, how far we have fallen!
We sing “God Bless America” and speak of “the land of the free.” But we have forgotten that God can bless only when we are obedient to Him and we are free only when we stay within His boundaries. The Psalmist writes: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psa. 33:12a), and the wisest man who ever lived (besides Jesus), Solomon, wrote: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Pr. 14:34). Our president’s goal is to “Make America Great Again,” and that won’t happen because our economy is doing well, or we have a strong military, or our educational system improves and people are working, but rather we can only be great again if we really believe and live out our motto: “In God We Trust.” As long as we trust in science or education or government we are putting our trust in man, and therein lies a big problem. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD…Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD…The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it’ ” (Jer. 17:6-9).
We need to understand that God’s standards (His fences) are for our good and that real freedom comes from living by those standards. The more we resist them and try to remove them the further we get into messes like we find our nation in right now. We desperately need a revival in the church and for our nation to regain its senses and realize that God placed boundaries upon our lives for good reason and that life doesn’t work the way He intended without them. We need to be like the prodigal son in Scripture and return to our Father to serve Him. He waits with open, loving arms for that to happen. It is our only hope as a nation. Pray much for our country and leaders and for us as Christians to be the salt and light which we are intended to be.