I heard a story years ago about a baseball player who was advancing through the minor leagues when something happened that brought his career to a temporary halt. The problem had nothing to do with his ability—he was a five tool player, meaning he could hit, hit with power, run, field, and throw. His dilemma was that the baseball field where his current team played had no fence in the outfield. As a result, there was simply too much territory to cover and he found himself unsure of where to be. If he played shallow, the ball could be hit the ball over his head. If he played deep, it could land in front of him. His difficulties in this area were affecting the rest of his game and his rise to the major leagues had stalled.
The team’s management understood what was going on and responded by putting up a fence in the outfield during the off season. They told him, “Anything on the other side of the fence is not your concern. Just take care of what happens inside the fence.” So that’s exactly what he did and that year he became an all-star center fielder. He found freedom through a fence.
This is the way it is for the follower of Jesus— we find our freedom through a fence. Left to our own devices, we’re unsure of where to be. That’s why in His love, God has put up a fence that keeps us from pursuing self-destructive ways (Galatians 5:19-21). Living inside the fence frees us to serve others (Galatians 5:13), and to love them as we love ourselves (v. 14). This results in healthy, constructive relationships rather than destructive ones (v. 15).
Of course, it should be conceded this doesn’t sound like freedom to everyone. For some, liberation doesn’t include loving and serving others. They are convinced that freedom is on the other side of the fence. This kind of thinking is not without precedent. Many years ago, there was a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest in San Francisco. People showed up wearing fake mustaches, derby hats, twirling canes, and walking like penguins! Unknown to anyone, the real Charlie Chaplin was there and entered the contest. He failed to make the finals!
Hard to believe, isn’t it? And yet this is not an isolated incident. If we reflect upon it, haven’t all of us at some time chosen the imitation over the authentic, the false over the true, the wrong over the right. If loving and serving others doesn’t sound like freedom, it’s because we’ve been known to be tone deaf to the truth. If it doesn’t look right, it’s because we’re called to be citizens of an upside-down kingdom where life comes through death, exaltation through humiliation, being first through being last, being greatest through being servant of all and yes, in this kingdom, freedom comes through a fence.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love,” (Galatians 5:13).