When it comes to boundaries, love them or loathe them, we all have them albeit at different levels. They exist all around us, helping to define us and shape how we interact within the world we live. They can be physical, spiritual, moral and intellectual. Some will say that they refuse to be limited by them and will press through to achievements we can admire – perhaps artists, explorers, inventers and athletes. Others, believing themselves to be ‘free-thinkers’, might refuse to acknowledge legal and moral boundaries and are far from admirable role models. Yet whether you call them boundaries, parameters, boarders, safety nets or limitations, we need them and rely on them. Without them, it becomes a virtual world where nothing is real and everything is real, a world of fantasy. How aware are you of your personal boundaries and how have they changed over time? These white cliffs look pretty fixed but even they have moved over time. Time itself is a boundary for every human being.
- ‘Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures’ – Edwin Louis Cole
- ‘I've learned to set boundaries and know when to say, "I just need to rest." I'm good at listening to what my body's telling me’ – Kourtney Kardashian
- ‘Guilt can prevent us from setting the boundaries that would be in our best interests, and in other people's best interests’ – Melody Beattie
- ‘Pleasure without God, without the sacred boundaries, will actually leave you emptier than before. The loneliest people in the world are amongst the wealthiest and most famous who found no boundaries within which to live’ – Ravi Zacharias
Which boundaries are indeed good to push and to break through? By contrast, which are those that we should not stray beyond because they are immovable and for our own good? In ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ by J R R Tolkien, Balrog comes from an extremely powerful demonic race of the fallen Maiar to confront Gandalf who represents the good and better way. It seems that Balrog’s vast power will overwhelm Gandalf and yet, though it is at a large personal cost, he stands steady and declares to Balrog: ‘You shall not pass!' For all of us, there are points at which we need to make a personal stand, both in our private and our public lives.
- ‘I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away’ – Jeremiah 5:22-23
- ‘There are those who move boundary stones; they pasture flocks they have stolen’ – Job 24:2
- ‘...he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command’ – Proverbs 8:29
- ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die”’ – Genesis 2:15-16
There are consequences when God’s boundaries are crossed as we see with the first disobedience in Adam and Eve. Most rational moral human beings, regardless of their spiritual stance, accept that murder, theft and rape are wrong. How often do people with no Christian faith pause to wonder where the sense of right and wrong came from? Nowadays, as people have cut loose from God’s standards, society has no clear moral view for it is all down to relativism, individualism and self-interpretation. When Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile record with a time of three minutes, fifty-nine and four-tenths of a second May 6th 1954, people were impressed by his grit and determination. When it was discovered that Adolf Hitler was encouraging experiments on human beings aided by Josef Mengele, people were disgusted. When a Finnish Dorset Sheep named after Dolly Parton was cloned 5 July 1996, people began to wonder what the implications were for the rights and wrongs of human selection. When there are no longer any moorings, society is adrift on a tide driven by the loudest voices and powerful undercurrents.
- ‘Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me’ – Psalm 16:5-7
- ‘Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers’ – Psalm 1:1-3
All boundaries that are God-given are for our good. In the days of Alfred the Great around 880 AD, there was a practice known as ‘beating the bounds’ where boundaries in a community were marked by an official civic ceremony using sticks to beat key landmarks to define ownership. Modern surveying techniques make this obsolete, but suppose you did something like that within your mind to check your boundaries, to see whether they conform to God’s boundaries. If that is your heart’s desire, God will help you stay or return to them. As you abide in him, so he will abide in you. Stay safe within the boundaries and blessings of the Good Shepherd.
TAGS – morals, absolutes, blessing, direction, ethics, determinism, moralism, pressure