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  • Writer's picturePhil


Updated: Dec 20, 2018

"O Little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie????

Boundaries to keep us in, or keep others out?

What's this about in the land that Jesus knew so well, in the place of His birth?

Who is it for?

The Church does boundaries as badly as the rest of them-

boundaries to keep "heretics" out,

boundaries to keep "those who are right" within the Church;

boundaries excluding enough to keep safe "those who are right" ,

boundaries around Catholics, boundaries around Protestants,

boundaries between "saved" Charismatics and "saved" traditionalists,

boundaries protecting the Theist from the non-theist.....

Nicola Slee always seems to have a word in season on boundaries:

"Ecclesiastical hedges

Planted in neat, straight lines,

designed to keep divinity in, or the world at bay?

They are thick and intricately tangled,

exquisitely manicured by God’s officials

who have had long training in the finer arts of hedging.

Snipping this way and that,

they mould the bushy green growth

into ever more ingenious designs:

filing fish, glamorous dragons,

motherly pelicans, tender lions,

meek lambs and impressive eagles.

So engrossed are they

in their tending of theological topiary,

they fail to notice God popping on her walking gear

and slipping out the back garden gate,

heading for the hills, quietly whistling." Nicola Slee

….boundaries between the welcomed and the unwelcomed;

Jesus knew that one!....

“You were an Incomer.

Before you first knocked on my door,

I knew you were coming. If I had said, 'I'm sorry, but, you see...,' you would have gone

without complaint.

You were a Stranger, far from home, and yet you made me feel

that I was the alien and the home was yours.

You shook the smallness

which had been my perpetual party. Stale bread and cold tea

and empty chairs.

You knew me before I said,

'Will you come in? You see, I wasn't expecting company so take me as you find me.'

How did you find me,

here on my own? Why do I now have a hope,

a home and a companion?

Tell me, why this invasion of my territory, this disturbance of my way of life?

You were unwelcome at first. They never made you welcome either. No room at the Inn; only a stable. No red carpet treatment for you; only a cross."

An article by George Dowdell

on Jesus and boundaries.

George says of himself:

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare)

and was the director for 24 years.

I have now handed control over to younger

people but continue as an advisor and trustee.

My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated

and to see justice for the powerless.

As we live in an imperfect society

we need some rules and laws to combat the worst forms of evil.

Religion has its own sets of rules,

but Jesus showed us that if we follow his way,

love transcends rules.

He was born into a Jewish society

which had built up a complex set of rules

to moderate and control how people lived their everyday lives.

Jesus broke many of the rules and traditions that religion imposed.

Jesus denounced the religious rulers

because they heaped an impossible burden

on ordinary people like you and me.

To even attempt to allow all the rules

you would have to devote your life, become a Pharisee.

The problem was that in keeping to the letter of the law

they omitted to do more important things

like caring for other people and promoting justice and mercy.

In denouncing the religious leaders,

he deliberately set himself against them

so he could teach, and demonstrate a better way.

* Touching Lepers...

According to Jewish Law,

if a person touched someone who was leprous,

they would become unclean.

Why did Jesus touch this leper?

Jesus realised that this man’s needs were emotional as well as physical.

This man mattered far more than rules and he needed touching!

Jesus didn’t disobey rules to be rebellious

but to demonstrate that love makes the rule redundant.

* Speaking to Women

In Jesus’s day it wasn’t considered right for a man to speak to a woman

who was a stranger and certainly not one of doubtful character

or of another ethnic origin.

Jesus wasn’t going to be tied down to convention

when he met a woman at a well in Samaria.

They had quite a discussion which resulted in many of that town

believing in him as ‘the Saviour of the world’.

Other examples:

* Overturning the money tables in the temple.

* Eating with “sinners”, people of dubious reputation.

* Not ritually washing hands before eating.

* Jesus’ commitment to non-violence

* Forgiving people’s sins and thus bypassing the temple sacrifices.

Jesus saw the only valid boundaries being those enclosed by love.

Mark chapter 12: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him,

“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this:

‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul

and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied.

“You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.

To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding

and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself

is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Jesus quoted these words from Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 5,

known as the Shema, taken from the first word “hear” in Hebrew.

The Jewish faithful, of which Jesus was a part,

consider the recital of the Shema both evening and morning

to be one of their most sacred duties.

The teacher of the law would, of course, have known these words only too well.

Jesus used them to illustrate to the teacher that building a relationship of love

with God and our neighbour was far more beneficial

than a relationship based on following rules and regulations.

For Jesus the only boundary is the enclosure of love.

Love is the regulation. Love is the rule.


How could you "push the boundaries" to make someone's life better today?

Do you personally need MORE boundaries in your life?

Have things got out of hand?

Are your actions in this respect less loving than they could be?

Do you love God with everything you've got,

and do you love your neighbour as yourself?

Is your (literal) neighbour a good neighbour (easy to love)

or a pain in the neck (hard to love)?

If the latter, ask God into that relationship.

Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth: send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ's sake.

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