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Article No. 85

There must be boundaries

Recently there was much discussion in the Church of England about there being insufficient boundaries. It was suggested that heresy could flourish without it being able to be checked - there were insufficient boundaries. In the event the votes, by the narrowest of margins, went against those who wanted to instal limits and boundaries. One reason for the rejection was that it was felt that these would lead to heresy trials which were the last thing the Church needed at this time!

The need for boundaries is a reason used in the great homosexuality debate too. It is suggested by those who want there to be greater control that a line must be drawn in the sand somewhere, so that churches and priests don’t go wandering off teaching and preaching whatever they want about sexuality. It is suggested by these people that in the recent dispute it is a case of a whole Province wandering off and doing it’s own thing!

Quite apart from the situation in the Church, many Christians view the way society is going somewhat pessimistically. Some think that the world is going downhill rather quickly! One reading of the New Testament leads us to think that such deterioration in society is a precursor to the end of the world. I guess there has always been a tendency for Christians to be sitting, metaphorically, on the edge of their seat, waiting for the last trump to sound. After all, did not our Lord himself say that it would come like a thief in the night? And did not he and Saint Paul both indicate - according to the Bible record - that we would not have to wait that long before the end came? Perhaps we have done well to survive for two thousand years!

The Bible talks of all sorts of signs and portends which will indicate that the last days are upon us - and down the ages Christians have read the signs of the times as showing quite clearly that the end was about to happen. Some seem to almost gain a sense of satisfaction and anticipation when they speak as though we are all about to be caught up into the air and whisked away to a better place. Perhaps that is understandable in view of the problems and persecution that some Christians experience.

From what Jesus said I think it is quite clear that he was indicating that there would eventually be a reckoning. There would be an end to time itself and a final judgement of all people. There would be a separating of the sheep from the goats. That just as God had created in the first place, so he would bring all things to an end. That there did exist a pervading justice behind all things.

I suppose that this concept of lines in the sand and of boundaries applies also to that favorite expression of Jesus: ‘the Kingdom of God’. There are some who are in the Kingdom of God and there are some who are not in the Kingdom of God. Between the two there is a line drawn in the sand. This is not to say that the person involved necessarily knows whether they are in or out. They might think they are in but really be outside, or they might think themselves as outside when in reality they are in. To be in the Kingdom, most Christians believe, there has to be some element of accepting Jesus into their lives.

So perhaps at least we can draw a pretty clear line here: if you accept Christ as Lord then you are in. If you don’t, however ‘good’ you are, then you are not yet in the Kingdom of God. But even here it is not always that easy to decide who is in and who is out. Often it is known to God alone. Sometimes we just have to leave it in His hands and say that it is not our place to make a judgement.

I suppose it is like the seaside. If you go far enough back from the sea you are quite clearly on terra firma. The sand stops and then there is hard earth. Advance towards the sea and soon there is sand - but it is only surface sand and underneath there is the same firm earth. Soon you come to sand dunes. Go further towards the sea still and you are now getting deep drifts of sand. There may be firm earth below - or there may not. Still further towards the sea and you are clearly onto the beach proper. Here it is sand on sand.

So where does the beach end and the firm earth begin? It is not clear - it is a shifting line, to some extent dependent on wind and waves.

So with us. We try to draw a clear line. Homosexuals are not acceptable to God, some say. But then we pause - do we mean homosexual people or homosexual behaviour? Where is the dividing line? What about orientation? Is that acceptable to God? If this person accepts Christ as Lord but is a practising gay person, committed in a loving relationship to which he is faithful - where does that leave him as regards the Kingdom of God?

So sometimes you will find people scraping in the sand to see whether there is firm earth there or not, beneath the sand. They are unsure. But because they have this inner desire to draw a firm line in the sand, they feel they have to try to decide exactly where the sand stops.

How about accepting. instead, that the only key question that needs asking is whether or not the person has made Christ the Lord of their life. Is that not the crucial question? Never mind questions about their orientation or about what they do in bed, alone or with anyone else. That is not the important issue. If there is fault and error in that area, then the Holy Spirit will convict and guide them into truth. They cannot resist God for long. If the Lord shows them a light and they refuse it then their spiritual life will grow cold and cheerless.

So when we meet someone who talks of drawing lines in the sand or asking for clear boundaries, maybe we need to draw them quietly aside and suggest that the only important line we need worry about refers to our relationship with Jesus Christ. Maybe we should advise them to stop prying into sexual habits and practices. That is not something for Christians to bother each other about. There need not be lines drawn there because the Holy Spirit is concerned to guide and lead us wherever we need to be taken.

Jesus had a lovely and telling story about someone who built their house on sand and how the storms collapsed it very quickly. Then there was this other man who built his house on rock and the storms simply blew themselves out without any effect on it. Surely that reinforces what we are saying? It is not lines in the sand that matter. Lines in the sand simply get washed away sooner or later when the tide comes in. Centuries pass and Christians learn new attitudes and gain deeper understanding. What was unthinkably wrong in one century may become acceptable in another. What shocks us today may have caused no concern several hundred years ago. What is seen as wrong in Tokyo may not be considered wrong in London.

So maybe we should forget lines in the sand, and maybe all this fuss about boundaries is unnecessary. Instead we ask simply : Do you know Christ as Lord of your life? That is the key question. If you don’t know about the friendship offered to us all by Jesus Christ then let me tell you about it as we walk along life’s path. But if you do know Him in your own experience, then I rejoice with you and come, lets walk together along the pilgrim way.

Tony Cross

December 2004

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