A friend of mine lived out in the country and had several large dogs. He wanted to keep them in his yard, but he didn’t want to build a fence. So he got one of those invisible fences. You are supposed to bury a wire around your yard that establishes a perimeter. Your dogs wear a collar that gives them a shock if they get too close to that wire. And it works very well. Now, I said that you are supposed to bury the wire around your yard. My friend buried most of the wire, but he got into some poison ivy so he decided to just leave the wire above ground in that area, and across a small part of his yard. Everything was fine until the day his wife went to mow the yard on the riding mower. She ran over the wire and cut it and wrapped a good portion of it around the mower shaft. He repaired the wire, but still didn’t bury it. A few weeks later, she ran over it again. He was bemoaning this and telling the story to a coworker, who said, “I know how you can put a stop to that.” My friend said, “I know, I should bury the rest of the cable.” His coworker said, “No, just put the shock collar on your wife before she mows!” He decided to bury the wire instead.


In a way, we all need a shock collar. We need something to tell us when we are about to go across a boundary that we should not cross. Those boundaries were established for us in God’s law summarized in the Ten Commandments. That is part of the function God’s law serves in our lives. The problem is we don’t always listen to it, or we hear it but ignore it. Even though shock collars work well, I’ve seen dogs that fight through the pain and run across the boundary anyway. Lots of people do the same when it comes to the boundaries of God’s law.


What we fail to realize is that God’s law was given to us for our own good. It comes from his love for us, his desire for us to have the best life possible. When he gave the commandments, God had already shown his love to his chosen people. He brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery, led them to freedom and was with them. He already did all that for them, and then he said this: “I will be your God and you will be my people. Live like my people.”


Just before they would enter the Promised Land, Moses shared these words with God’s people: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)


You need to remember just how much God loves you. Even when you falter, even when you sin, God loves you. He wants nothing more than to pick you up, wrap his arms around you, and tell you that he forgives you. In order for you to remember this, just look at the cross. Remember what Jesus already did for you there. Receive the gift of forgiveness and life and restoration he earned for you. And resolve once again, with God’s help, to walk in his ways, to keep his commands, decrees and laws — because you know the love of God in Christ Jesus. Savor that. Hang on to it. And live in the confidence that God loves you.


Michael Mattil is the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Denison. He can be reached at pastor@glcdenison.org. he views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.