I have many fond childhood memories of a warm evening about dusk when all the kids living on our street would meet at a designated point for our nightly game of “kick the can.” We had long since given up on the can and routinely used a kickball or basketball as the object for kicking. The game is played much like hide-and-seek with the added thrill of being able to go and “kick the can” and free all of those that had been captured and allow them to go and hide again. It usually started out with everyone gathering in a circle and determining who would be “IT” by the “one potato, two potato, three potato four, five potato, six potato, seven potato more, my mother says out goes you” method. The last person left in was “IT” and had the task of counting to a predetermined number with their eyes closed before beginning the search process to catch everyone else and place them in “jail.” There was only one thing that could bring everyone out of hiding back to base (the ball) and that was if someone called out the phrase “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE!” This meant everyone was free to come out of there place of hiding without penalty or risk of being captured. “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE” assured all the players that safety and security was being provided by the one calling out the phrase.
For some of us, we were hesitant to leave our hiding place even after hearing “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE.” We were comfortable in our hiding place and we feared someone “tricking” us out in the open to capture us and take away our freedom. Some of us hid in dark and sometimes scary places to try and keep from being discovered. We wanted the benefits of freedom yet we were willing to accept dark and scary places for our refuge. On occasion it took several offerings of OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE to get some participants out of hiding.
As I reflect back on those experiences, I can’t help but think of how it relates to what Jesus is offering us. He is calling out to us saying “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE” and offering us freedom without penalty or risk. John 8:36 tells us “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” God loves us so much that he is willing to make that offer without cost to us yet many of us are afraid to come out of our hiding places to accept His gift of eternal freedom. Many of us men like to put on the façade that we are enjoying freedom yet we are hiding in dark and scary places. What we are calling freedom is simply sin wrapped in a nice neat package of Satan’s deception and lies to control our lives. He will use any means possible to destroy us and any possibility of having a relationship with our Creator. Occasionally we have someone come along who “kicks the can” and we think that we have been given freedom by their bailing us out of captivity. Somehow that type of freedom never seems to last and it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves once again “imprisoned” by life’s many challenges. It is only when we respond to Jesus calling of “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE” that we can begin to understand the true meaning of God’s definition of freedom. John 8:32 tells us “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” God is offering truth as Jesus calls out “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE” and the Holy Spirit beckons us to answer that call. God’s promise is not one of an easy life or life without challenge but it is a promise of always being there with us and for us. Romans 8: 31b says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” No matter what life presents, we have a God that will bring us through whatever circumstances we face.
In closing, I have to give a word of caution to those men who have responded to the call of “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE” and accepted the freedom that God offers through a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. We must always be mindful of what 1 Peter 2: 16 tells us and that is “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” In our freedom we are to live as “servants of God.” We do not have a license to continue to live as the world lives because of our assurance of God’s eternal promise but we are to model our eternal freedom to other men so that they may hear the call of “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE.” We are to be men who demonstrate what God’s true freedom is all about and we are to echo Jesus calling of “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE.” We must be diligent and devoted to developing our relationship with our Heavenly Father so that we grow stronger in our freedom no matter what life circumstances come our way. We must become men that are daily prayer warriors and students of God’s word, the Holy Bible. We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are fighting a spiritual war and we must be prepared for this type of warfare. God is ready, willing and able to supply everything we need but it requires that we yield to Him and Him alone. By doing so, we can have the fullness and completeness that is offered by that simple phrase “OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE!”