Boundaries are funny things.
Boundaries matter, but they are also completely arbitrary.
Boundaries are how we determine which side of a line we are on, but they are completely man-made.
By looking at a boundary we can say with certainty that we are presently in Canada … and yet we decided where to put that line and call this side Canada and that side the USA.
This doesn’t just hold true for geographical boundaries. The thing about a boundary is that it is always a human creation. We create a litmus test – a boundary – in order to determine who is in and who is out.
Who is loving and who is not.
Who is “in sin” and who is “righteous”.
Who is a Christian and who has not yet made that commitment.
… And the list could go on.
We think in a very dualistic way; you are either on this side of a line or you are on that side of a line.
But reality doesn’t work that way.
Things are much more complicated than we would like to believe. There is a lot more grey than black or white.
Life is more like a continuum than neatly divided halves.
Think about our judicial system for a minute. Many laws would seem simple. For example, don’t kill anyone!
Simple enough right?
Except when a court attempts to determine if person x is guilty of killing someone, they begin to look at the situation. The circumstances. What happened that caused this death.
The court attempts to determine if a sinister motive exists, or if it was self defence, or if it was an accident. In the end these discussions help determine if the person has actually committed what we call a crime (the boundary) or not.
A determination is eventually made, but the process of making that decision shows how complicated things can be. (And where that boundary exists changes with geography and culture – each creates their own line).
Or think about giving a teen an instruction to clean their room. At the end of the day, you go to their room and see it hasn’t been cleaned. It is clear that the boundary you setup (clean your room) shows that the teen is on one side of that boundary (the room is not clean and they need to be disciplined).
When he or she gets home you ask them why they didn’t clean their room and you find out that between the time you spoke to them and now they haven’t been able to get home because the bus broke down and they have been stuck on the side of a road waiting for hours. They didn’t purposefully disobey the instruction and so most parents would understand the mitigating circumstances and loosen the boundary.
We create and re-create our boundaries. Boundaries can be incredibly important – especially during developmental stages of our lives when we need more structure – but we also need to be able to recognize when to loosen or re-draw the boundaries.
While my children are young, I may need to draw tight boundaries in order to help my kids learn how to be decent human beings, but the goal is always so that they will be able to develop into people who can make good choices on their own — without the need to have someone dictating what they can and cannot do at every step of their day. I may have to tell them they cannot eat all the candy they want at age 7 or 10, but the goal is so that when they are 25 and able to make their own choices, they will choose wisely.
The fact that a boundary is a human creation will, hopefully, make us humble as we look at the binaries we create (right/wrong) – creating a line in the sand may be important to properly structure our lives, but it is still something we create.
It is imaginary in that it is not a physical thing and is not a universal truth. We decide where to place the boundary and, while this is fine, we are not the ultimate judge. We are instructed to leave judgement to God himself and only to him.
Our boundaries are great … but they are only ours.
God is not contained within our boundaries.