Monday, May 17, 2021

“Ally, Ally Oxen Free"

By Gerald Cowan

    Maybe you said it differently when you played hide and seek or some other childhood game but it’s what we thought we were saying when I was a kid and played those games. The object of the game was to stay hidden or sneak in to the goal without being detected, then being pronounced “safe,” no longer under threat or danger. As long as you remained successfully hidden you were safe and free.  Ally, ally oxen free  meant the game was over and all those who were still out – trying to avoid getting caught and so losing the game – were to come in, with no penalty. Perhaps it was to start the game again or start another game. But at any rate, everybody was to come out of hiding and be free. The probable original saying was, “All ye, all ye 'outs' in free." But children (older folks too) say what they think they hear, and however you say it everybody understands what it is supposed to mean: come in free, no cost, no penalty. Sounds like a bit like amnesty to me.


    Amnesty is understood to be a suspension of rules or conditions,  the cancellation or pardon of penalties or consequences for violation of rules, laws, and policies. It would be something like sneaking into a sporting or entertainment venue and, when caught, not being ejected but allowed to stay and even being allowed all rights and privileges of paying customers. I remember being one of several kids who tried it when the circus or carnival came to town. Poor kids did it because they couldn’t pay. Some just wanted to avoid payment so their money could be used for other things. Some did it on a dare, some just to see if they could manage to get in for free. There was a feeling of elation when one succeeded, when one sneaked in and didn’t get caught. It was the guilty pleasure of getting away with something you knew was wrong, enjoying something you knew you didn’t have a right to. And there might also be a little contempt for the powers that be who couldn’t detect you, or who let you stay even when they found out you had entered illegally. Of course the sneak would be careful not to draw undue attention to himself and be asked to show proof of legal admission, a special ink stamp on the hand, a ticket stub or some other document showing he had a right to be there. The same principle, elevated somewhat, applies to those who try to sneak into the country from some foreign place. Probably nobody will ever know how many manage to do it without getting caught and punished or deported.
    Citizenship in any country is a precious possession. Benefits are too numerous and generally too well known to need being mentioned here, but among the most alluring ones – depending of course upon the country: better wages, better standard of living, opportunities for personal growth, development and advancement, better relationships, access to public welfare and public education, and a broader range of personal freedoms. Of course there are important obligations of citizenship too: obeying local and national laws, paying taxes and tribute, defending the country from its enemies (including illegal intruders). In most countries there is a clear legal path to citizenship, to loyalty and allegiance, and to the fulfillment of obligations. But that path is often burdensome and usually takes a considerable amount of time and effort. Many simply do not want to wait, Either they want citizenship immediately or, what is more often the case, they want the privileges and benefits of citizenship without the costs, without the responsibilities and obligations.  The fast track to perks and privileges without burdensome obligations is just to sneak in. There are unscrupulous persons who promise a different path into the country and the privileges of citizenship. Often it comes at a high cost. For payment of a certain sum of money they promise to sneak the person in. But they may be predators who take the money and abandon the person. They may sell the person – especially women and children – into slavery. Trafficking in humans is practiced in most countries of the world. So the one seeking freedom and a better life is misled, diverted, robbed and destroyed by immoral predators. Some countries allow children born there, even to illegally-present parents, to be citizens on that basis alone. Then there is the hope that the illegal parents will be allowed to stay for the sake of and because of the rights of their citizen children. Of course one must be careful not to get caught without proper documentation and permission to stay until such time as they can establish the right to stay. The expected penalties for violating immigration laws could range from fines and imprisonment to deportation and being barred from legal access to the country through the ordinary pathway. This is where the appeal for amnesty may be raised. If amnesty is granted all prior violations may be forgiven, penalties cancelled, freedom to stay granted, access to all privileges and benefits, and an easy path to citizenship if it is desired. Amnesty should inspire gratitude, but it may sometimes inspire contempt for the nation, its laws, and its government. The nation becomes an easy mark for intruding sneaks.


    The benefits of citizenship in the kingdom of God outweigh anything a nation can bestow upon its citizens. There are benefits for the immortal soul, the eternal spirit – far more important than the temporal physical body. Who can put a price on love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control shared by all who bear the fruit of the Spirit of God? (Galatians 5:22-23). What can separate God’s people from God’s love in Christ? Nothing can – neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor authorities, nor powers, nor things present or things to come. We are more than conquerors of all these things and more (Romans 8:27-39). There is nothing in the world of the spirit that we cannot overcome in Christ. We can have perfect peace and fellowship that will endure in the world and continue after the world. Nothing other than the kingdom of God, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spiritual body of Christ can make such a promise and keep it. Nothing is more important now or eternally than the kingdom of God. Those who know that will surely want to be in it and not be excluded from it.
    There is a particular path to citizenship in the kingdom of God. It is through Jesus Christ and through no other person, group, or religion. He and the gospel of God are the truth and the life and the only way to God (John 14:6). There are those who propose and accept other paths, but God accepts only this one (Matthew 7:13-14). The way of truth is restricted and narrow, with plainly marked immoveable boundaries. The way into it is clearly defined so that one who seeks it can find it and not miss it. There is no “open door” policy and no “many doors and many ways” policy. But there are spiritual predators who make merchandise of people – they buy and sell people for personal gain (2 Peter 2:3). They offer false ways to salvation which God will never accept.
    Why would anyone accept false religious ways when the truth is readily available? Perhaps because of ignorance of the scripture They are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:16), having been mistaught by either wicked or ignorant men who misquote and misapply the gospel. But there is another possibility too. Some seek the benefits of the  kingdom  without  accepting  the  restrictions,  requirements,  and obligations God imposes. If they can somehow sneak in, remain undetected and enjoy the benefits of citizenship which do not rightly belong to them they are satisfied. But they are unaware that they will eventually be exposed for what they are, lose all benefits, be deported – not even be allowed to see into heaven to see the full meaning of life eternal there, and be cast into eternal hell. There is no amnesty, no time when restrictions and requirements are suspended, and no cancellation of penalties and punishment for violators.
    Repeat it: there is no amnesty in the kingdom of God. But there is mercy, forgiveness, and citizenship for those who take the proper pathway through Jesus Christ and his gospel, those who obey the rules, those who trust in God and take the way of salvation He offers. Those who try to come into the kingdom of God by some other way prove themselves to be thieves and robbers (John 10:8), ignorant at best, hypocrites at worst, but misfits in either case – misfits who will be deported by the Lord in due time. And there is not enough power in the whole world of men and demons to override God’s denial, invalidation, and veto of anybody’s citizenship.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at

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