During World War I a Protestant chaplain with the American troops in Italy became a friend of a local Roman Catholic priest. In time, the chaplain moved on with his unit and was killed. The priest heard of his death and asked military authorities if the chaplain could be buried in the cemetery behind his church.
Permission was granted. But the priest ran into a problem with his own Catholic Church authorities. They were sympathetic, but they said they could not approve the burial of a nonCatholic in a Catholic cemetery. So the priest buried his friend just outside the cemetery fence. Years later, a war veteran who knew what had happened returned to Italy and visited the old priest. The first thing he did was ask to see the chaplain’s grave. To his surprise, he found the grave inside the fence.
“Ah,” he said, “I see you got permission to move the body.”
“No,” said the priest. “They told me where I couldn’t bury the body. But nobody ever told me I couldn’t move the fence.”
At first glance this seems to be a heartwarming account of an enduring friendship that was bounded by love without limitations. A closer look, however, reveals the sad picture of the approach many have regarding Christianity. “Nobody ever told me I couldn’t move the fence” – how many times through the centuries have men, good men with good intentions, taken upon them the responsibility to move the fences of God’s commands?
God, Creator of all living and having all authority, has bound His commands upon all of humanity. His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3) neither are they such that none can attain to them. The will and law of Almighty God is such that humanity is provided with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3) as well as guidance that we might enjoy our physical lives in the most fulfilling way (Matt. 6:33). Nevertheless, man has taken upon himself to establish his own laws; live according to his own will; in fact, to be his own god!
In his own wisdom man has determined that all things have evolved from nothing; that humanity is the byproduct of pure chance—the result of billions of years of “self-improvement.” The elite and educated among us have reached the high opinion that religion is a weakness in man and that God, neither having been seen nor heard, is little more than a fanciful concoction. Having thus concluded, man has determined to remove God and all to do with Christianity from the public domain. Our culture reveals the results of such godless philosophies: fornication, adultery, immodesty, and social drinking is accepted as a part of everyday life; abortion (murder of pure innocence) is legal; homosexuality (an abomination in the eyes of God – Lev. 18:22) is accepted and promoted; no less than 50% of all marriages end in divorce; single parent homes are in abundance; violent crime is ever increasing; children are giving birth to children; junior high and high school age youth are murdering their fellow students; metal detectors are being placed in schools; inch by inch our government is taking more control of our lives thereby eroding our religious liberties. And still we wonder what is wrong with our country!
Even among “religiously minded” folks Christianity has become tradition. For most Americans, worship and religion is little more than another part of their social life; Christianity is what they do for an hour on Sunday (or Saturday – depending on your religious “choice”). Worship, which should be to honor, praise and glorify God, has become an “experience,” an event where “Christians” display their talents on stage to the applause of their fellow congregants; from the pulpit men (and even women, against the will of God and His New Testament pattern) preach philosophy, psychology, and ideology rather than gospel truth. Christ is not lifted up, but man. Instead of worshipping in “spirit and in truth” God is worshiped in emotion and opinion. Faith has been replaced with feeling; the Bible with tradition; worship with wow; Christianity with custom. And sadly, the church of our Lord, the blood bought body of Christ is but an afterthought among professed Christians. How sad it is that many have found it necessary to “move the fence.”
“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6).