June 25, 2017

At Liberty to ‘Trespass’

Don Johnson

Lately I’ve taken up walking as a means of exercise. GallopingGooseMy doctor says I must. Ten thousand steps a day sounded so simple in his office the other day! Reality is a different matter.

One place I love to walk is a trail down below my home. My property borders on this trail, a regional park, but “you can’t get there from here.” It’s pretty well straight down from my house, a shear drop of thirty feet or so. To get to the trail, I have to drive around the long way and park at one of many entrances to it.

The Galloping Goose, as we call it, is an old railway right-of-way that cuts across our region from downtown Victoria, BC out to the boondocks where I live and beyond. The end of the trail is the remnants of an old mining concern that has long since played out. The trail itself offers residents of our region tremendous opportunities for recreation. And just below my house is one of the best parts – it runs right along the water of the Sooke Basin, a beautiful spot to be sure. The two miles to the east of my house are a pleasure to walk on.

I noticed the other day that as I walk down the trail in that direction there are numerous “No trespassing” signs on either side of the trail.

There are paths and roughed in driveways that look very intriguing, going down to the water or up to the roads above. Every one of these side tracks from the trail is posted – they are private property. On one of my walks recently, I realized that the part of the trail I was walking on was actually the private property of someone else. The owners of these properties have one lot, not two, but since I was on a right-of-way, I had perfect liberty to walk through my neighbour’s back yards. They couldn’t do anything about it. It struck me that this privilege is just like the liberty described in the Bible.

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

These pathways, especially those where I can see no house nearby, are especially intriguing. One property shows signs of long disuse. A driveway is roughed in from the main road, crosses the trail and descends further on the other side to a largish section before that property reaches the water line. The driveway was built some time ago, it is rough road base only, not graveled or paved. I have peeked in to the part on the water side a few feet… but am prevented by the ubiquitous “Private Property – No Trespassing” sign. No one lives there, there is no property to damage, but I would be breaking the law if I stepped further. I can walk on the trail that intersects the driveway all I want, but I may not leave it to explore the intriguing pathways on either side.

You may have heard our Christian liberty described as the freedom to do what is right. We used to be in bondage to sin, living at enmity to God in a condition where it was impossible to please him or keep his laws. We were constantly subject to his wrath, law-breakers and sinners. But Christ intervened, we heard the gospel, believed and were set free from our former bondage to his glorious liberty. We have a right-of-way that leads straight to heaven. We have a clear path to follow, no one can hinder us.

There are intriguing detours and side-paths to the way of liberty. They look innocent enough, but if we cross the boundaries we will find ourselves subject to the accusations of conscience and the Spirit — and perhaps other consequences as well. Many Christians want to flaunt their liberty as if the side-paths are legitimate byways upon which they are entitled to walk. They need to beware, lest they again get entangled with a yoke of bondage.

Christian liberty is not the freedom to do whatever I want, it is the freedom and power (the right) to follow Christ where he leads.


Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.


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