Are Boundaries Stifling or Freeing?
Boundaries, rules, and the practicalities of life sometimes seem restrictive and even stifling. But most of us would agree that some boundaries are just necessary for life. They help it run smoothly and allow relationships between people to be amiable. Perhaps boundaries wouldn’t be necessary if people treated each other with love but that is not always the case. God recognized this early on and decided that boundaries were needed for the safety of His people. He created out of love what we call the Ten Commandments. This set of boundaries are guidelines to direct the community of God. They weren’t designed to earn God’s protection or love. Instead, they show God’s love for us. For as Christ taught us, they were to help fulfill and teach God’s ultimate law of love.
As I have thought and explored the necessity of boundaries, rules, or commands I recalled Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Walls. If you aren’t familiar with this poem it is about the speaker and a neighbor. They are meeting to rebuild a stone wall between their properties, a ritual they repeat every spring. Each expresses their point of view regarding the need for such a boundary to exist. One points out how easily we can get caught up in necessary or unnecessary rituals. While the other feels the boundary is harming. The original boundaries or rules of God, however, were created and existed for the overall well-being of everyone. They are steeped in the love that God holds for His people. And the love that He wanted us to hold for one another.
Then God gave the people all these instructions.Exodus 20:1 (NLT)
Do Boundaries Divide or Unite?
In our world today, we have many boundaries that society has drawn. Some come from history. Many of which divide us instead of making us whole. For they separate us into groups of good and bad, us and them. These types of boundaries are false boundaries and do not serve the commandment of love. When boundaries divide us, they create fear which is why Christ reminds us that everyone is our neighbor. We are all part of God’s family and therefore should treat each other with the same love and respect. But the words that God gave His people were not created as choices to follow or not. They were a way of life or description of the kind of people, who love God; can choose to be. Christ reduced the 10 commandments, or as the Hebrew reads- all these words, down to two.
If you look carefully at the Ten Commandments, you see they divide into two sections. The 1st – 4th commandments are about those who love God. Christ said in Matthew 22:37, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (NLT) If you do this then you are following the 1st – 4th commandments. The 5th – 10th commandments are how God’s people are to treat one another, our neighbors. Christ tells us in Matthew 22:39 that we are to “…Love your neighbor as yourself.” (NLT) He tells us that the entire law is based on these two commands. These are the boundaries within which those who chose to believe and follow God should live. We should look to the commandments, not as boundaries that tell us, “Thou shall not” but instead look to them as “Thou shall.”
Boundaries Can be Descriptions of Love
If we look at the boundaries of the Ten Commandments as descriptions of God’s people, then we see that we’re people that have one God. We are people that do not kill and steal. It is who we are and who we are not. But it is important to note that God doesn’t put conditions on His boundaries. He doesn’t say if we live a life with these boundaries, He will love us. Instead, God says, if we choose to live within these boundaries, we will learn how His love will shape us into His people and communities. The true function and beauty of His law help lead us into a life of practical holiness making us more like Christ. When we choose to look at the Ten Commandments in this way, we see the true nature of God and His plan for life not only here but throughout eternity.
The boundaries that God sets before us are not a group of rules and regulations, but guidelines of love. Love for God and love for others. When we see the commandments as a way to love we will no longer see them as rules to follow. When we choose to align ourselves with God, being His people, and living life recognizing such, the natural progression is living within the boundaries of love He put before us. It is here we can see God and others in and with full love. These boundaries give us guidance, purpose, and direction which without life is chaotic. God desires for us to have ordered lives and through living the boundaries He set we turn to God, living for Him which is a life of peace.
Choosing to be Bound in Love
Won’t you challenge yourself to see the Ten Commandments as mere boundaries of love that God provides to help us live lives steeped in love? Allow your conviction and motivation for identifying with God and His people to be rooted in His love for us. Lastly, surround yourself in the comfort of knowing that when you choose to love “the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” the benefits of such love extend far beyond this world and into the next.
Let us unite as people of You, oh God, keeping our focus on You by living within the boundaries that You set. But let us also see that these boundaries help us stay and work together as Your people who can help a hurting world and bring others to live within Your community too, no matter how different they may be from us.
Love in Christ,
Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility to give me freedom.Henry Cloud
What are your thoughts?
Do you see boundaries as good things or bad? Have you considered how the Ten Commandments are not rules to follow but instead are descriptions of God’s people? Share your thoughts on how God’s love is seen clearly through the boundaries He set.