When I was a little boy (in pre-history), I remember hearing a song pleading ‘Don’t fence me in!’
The song-writer was Cole Porter and the song was popularised by Bing Crosby, among others. The first stanza went something like this…
‘Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don’t fence me in
Let me be myself in the evenin’ breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don’t fence me in!’
Don’t you feel like that, sometimes? People, institutions, traditions, even our own prejudices, seem intent on fencing us in??
In church circles one sometimes senses a subtle ‘control,’ if not overt manipulation. ‘You have to do as we decide, after all we voted on this…’ Or, ‘Surely you should see it this way’ in terms of belief or theology or experience… Or, the church constitution is considered more authoritative than the Scriptures… Or, when debating Scripture with folk, you immediately sense that you’re being put on their prayer-list…
Frank Viola, at a denominational leadership conference in Chile, where the leadership was being experienced as very controlling by the members, reminded his audience that Christ when He came into this earth, was the most liberated Person to walk the planet. He was also the Great Liberator. Consequently, if our leadership does not serve people and set them free, it is not biblical leadership!
It was with this in mind that my wife and I, after careful prayer, at the end of 2011 said to the house groups we facilitate, ‘We are setting you free… If you prefer not to continue the journey with us in 2012, you are free to do as you feel led by God – with our blessing, as you explore His plan for your life!’ (no recriminations, etc).
A seasoned leader once said that the only kind of control in the Bible is self-control.
Does this ‘breaking down of fences’ mean licence?? I don’t think so.
Augustine of Hippo (converted from a life of sensual licence) declared, ‘Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.’
As already hinted at, was Jesus not a great breaker-down-of-fences? Note his dealings with the Samaritan woman in Jn. 4, the woman caught in adultery in Jn. 8, the immoral woman who anointed Him in Simon the Pharisee’s house (in all 4 Gospels)? Was Calvary not the ultimate un-fencing: between God and mankind, Jew and Gentile?
Has God not called His body to ‘break down fences,’ as ‘the Church leaves the building’ to take Jesus where He feels most at home? Are we not called to be far more ‘incarnational’ rather than ‘invitational?’ (Frost & Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come)
‘Give me land, lots of land…
Let me be myself in the evenin’ breeze…’