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RELIGION: Curfew? What's that?

March 17, 2021 at 5:20 a.m.

Curfew. What an interesting word. I don't know about you, but words pique my curiosity, and I have to find out what they mean.

When I was 18 years old, I met a pretty girl whose name was Carol Ann Winton. Well, I couldn't rest until I found out what her name meant, so I did the research.

Carol is a joyous song. Ann comes from the same root as does Hannah, and relates to grace, mercy, and prayer. And Winton is a derivative of the phrase, a winsome town -- reduced to winton. So there you have it: A joyous song, full of grace, mercy, and prayer, from a friendly town. And I married her. It's been more than 54 years now, and I still say marrying her was one of the two best decisions I've made in my entire life.

But getting back to words.

I've known the word curfew for most of my life. Dad gave us a curfew when we were in our teen years. The university had a curfew for those living on campus. You hear about curfew in many places in life. But what does it mean? Please allow me to combine several sources and rephrase them for you.

Back in early European history, the inhabitants of France burned trees, brush, and shrubs to clear land for farming and building homes. That was actually a common activity around the world. But to prevent fires from getting out of control overnight and destroying the homes, the landowners gave the order to extinguish the fires at night. They didn't have fire extinguishers or water hoses, so they smothered the fires by covering them with dirt.

By approximately the 13th century, a system had been worked out. The town bell, which could be heard all around the countryside, was rung around 8 or 9 p.m. as the signal, and the watchmen would holler out "Cuevre -Feu!" That is translated as "Cover Fire!" or "Cover the fire!"

As time went on and the fires were not needed, the bell-ringing system was used to mark the time to extinguish the gas streetlights and reduce the fires in the indoor hearths. That also notified townsfolk to prepare to go down for the night. It was all intended to prevent destructive fires.

The words cuevre-feu gradually evolved into cuerfeu, then by the 1800s in England and the United States, finally to curfew. That's also when the word came to used as a means of restricting the unwanted movement of people. We still hear the phrase a "dusk-to-dawn curfew."

The U.S. Navy had an interesting system for ships. At 2200 hours (10 p.m.) a whistle was heard throughout the ship by PA system to get everyone's attention, and the order was given, "The smoking lamp is now out." That meant all tobacco smoking below decks was over for the night. It was a cuevre-feu, or a curfew.

Oh, did I mention what the other best decision in life was? Forgive me. It was deciding to devote my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Relating to my life with Jesus, the phrase cuevre-feu, or curfew, has a different, more dynamic meaning for me.

I've been offered opportunities in life that you might not believe. Would it have been wrong to accept them? Let me respond this way: I turned them down because accepting them might have led me away from living for and serving God.

If I were to make poor decisions or commit ungodly actions, I would damage my life and hurt others. It would be a means of "creating fires," so to speak, and I would have to find ways to put them out. Cuevre-Feu. But I don't want to dishonor my Lord.

Therefore, because, to the best of my ability, I choose to honor the Lord with my entire life – activities, travel, decisions, motives, emotions, choice of vocabulary, personal interactions, you name it – I set a curfew on what I do in life.

And because I employ the cuevre-feu now, I don't need to worry about the big fire at the end of this physical life. Rather than being concerned about a rather unhappy and unhealthy eternity, I will be spending my eternity with God in heaven. I want to honor Jesus with my entire life – my eternal life.

How about you? Are you living to please yourself? Or are you limiting yourself, employing a curfew, now so you can honor the Lord and rejoice forever?

-- S. Eugene Linzey is the author of 'Charter of the Christian Faith.' Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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