Remove the ‘No Trespassing’ Signs?
Updated: May 25, 2021
The word “trespass,” in its original usage, meant a sidestep, a lapse, or a deviation. Nowadays, whenever you see a “No Trespass” sign posted, you are facing a warning not to step over the line.
We like to draw lines around things, people and property and declare everything inside that line as “ours.” I am reminded of that human trait when I was playing with my grandchildren. Our 4-year-old granddaughter, Amelia, believes every toy, book, and item belongs to her and never to her baby brother. She has drawn the lines big and bold.
The lines we draw around what is “ours” and what is others varies from situation to situation.
When people trespass against us by touching a “tender spot” where we are vulnerable to offense, even if the intrusion is accidental or ignorant or takes the form of a harmless joke, we begin to defend “our space.”
When the neighbor’s dog does something inside our fence, we know exactly where the point of trespass lies: “our yard.” When a wave of robberies begins to haunt our end of town, our territorial line suddenly expands to include “our neighborhood.”
When we resent the intrusion by the federal government into our regional needs and wants, our territory takes on the even larger boundaries of “our state.” When threats of war and terrorism start crashing on our shores, we find ourselves yearning for a way to effectively protect “our nation.”
When our oceans start smelling like backed-up septic tanks, we suddenly feel the need to defend “our planet.”
When we eventually draw our lines so broad and wide that they encompass the whole earth, we see that what was once a “line” has now become a circle – a circle of love and concern that puts every living creature on the “inside” of this boundary.
This is the kind of line, an eternal line – for a circle has no beginning and no end – that Jesus wanted to call attention to in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man, during his life on earth, had drawn his lines very tightly about himself and his possessions. The poor Lazarus lived in misery and hunger “at his gate.” He was of no concern to the rich man because his agony lay on the other side of that man’s line.
Upon reaching his new territory - his own torment in hades - the rich man suddenly finds himself now on the wrong side of the line. A "chasm" which no one may cross - a clear line of separation - divides those in heaven and those in hell. It is only when he is established on the wrong side of this line that the rich man recognizes the truth about what was "his," about what truly lay within the boundaries of his concern when he was on earth. He calls Abraham "father" and recognizes Lazarus at the patriarch's bosom as his brother.
The rich man begs Abraham to allow a brotherly mission of mercy to come to him - for he now desperately wants to claim his place in the circle of God's family. But Abraham declares that opportunity is past, the time for expanding his boundaries had been while he was on earth, and the rich man must now exist within the confines of the territory he sculpted out for himself while on earth.
In all his wisdom, however, Abraham did not strictly speak the truth to the rich man when he declared that the chasm lying between them could not be crossed. It was, in fact, through the power of a cross that the boundary between heaven and hell was breached. Jesus broke the power of death and crashed the gates of hell. God has done for us what Abraham refused to do for the rich man. To the witness of the tradition, to the truth of Scripture, God has added the glory of the apostles' witness of Jesus' resurrection.
Is your life increasingly subdivided by lines of your own making? Are you on-line or off-line? Do you rate a by-line or are you on the sidelines? Do you walk a fine line, or have you found yourself red-lined?
The only way to escape from these lines of despair is to draw together all the lines in your life to create the eternal line: the circle. The eternal line that is offered to us through Christ's boundary-breaking entrance into this world and his sacrificial love for us in his death on the cross draws’ endless circles around us: circles of love, circles of hope, circles of peace. All we are asked to do in return is to climb over our self-made lines and step into the middle of Christ's circle. Will you join that circle this month?