Michael Yaconelli articulates this powerful story in his book, Messy Spirituality—God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People. Chronicled during World War II, he recounts the actions of a group of soldiers and one old priest in the rural countryside of France:
“During an intense battle, one of the American soldiers was killed. His comrades did not want to leave his body on the battlefield and decided to give him a Christian burial. They remembered a church a few miles behind the front lines whose grounds included a small cemetery surrounded by a white fence. After receiving permission to take their friend’s body to the cemetery, they set out for the church arriving just before sunset.
“A priest, his bent-over back and frail body betraying his many years, responded to their knocking. His face, deeply wrinkled and tan, was the home to fierce eyes that flashed wisdom and passion. Our friend was killed in battle,’ they blurted out, ‘and we wanted to give him a church burial.’
“Apparently the priest understood what they were asking, although he spoke in very broken English. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘but we can only bury those of the same faith here.’ Weary after many months of war, the soldiers simply turned to walk away. ‘But,’ the old priest called after them, ‘you can bury him outside the fence.’
“Cynical and exhausted, the soldiers dug a grave and buried their friend just outside the white fence. They finished after nightfall. They next morning, the entire unit was ordered to move on, and the group raced back to the little church for one final good-bye to their friend. When they arrived, they couldn’t find the gravesite. Tired and confused, they knocked on the door of the church. They asked the old priest if he knew where they had buried their friend. ‘It was dark last night and we were exhausted. We must have been disoriented.’
“A smile flashed across the old priest’s face. ‘After you left last night, I could not sleep, so I went outside early this morning and I moved the fence.’”
Isn’t that truly the power of God’s grace through Christ’s death and resurrection? Jesus through taking our sin upon himself on Calvary’s cross changed the rules of the game. Those who were at one time outside the fence now are included in God’s plan of salvation. The Apostle John in one of the most famous verses in all the world says it so eloquently, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God showers on the world that would reject his love grace upon grace through his Son, Jesus Christ. Who moved the fence? Jesus did. Why did he move the fence? Because of his love for the world. How did move the fence? By taking on himself the sins of the entire world. And what does that mean for us? If we believe in him we will not perish but live life eternal reunited with the Creator. I am so glad he moved that fence and included me in his kingdom.