It’s a word we will need to look at again and again.
Susie and I have been reading this book on Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend – it is very insightful and helpful.
Boundaries are good – but not if they divide us.
Here in this passage boundaries became walls to divide.
But boundaries are also God-given. When God created he created different kinds. Each developed according to their own kind. If we look at creation we have a rich variety and diversity. That rich diversity and variety is what makes creation so great. So too in the church.
Each of us has a calling – that calling forms a boundary. It shows us where our limits, roles, authority, responsibilities and reach lies.
Boundaries are important – we need to know when to say No and when to say yes – boundaries can provide focus to what we do. It prevents us stretching beyond our responsibilities, going beyond what God has called us to do. We need to ask God where are our boundaries.
Boundaries are not meant to be walls to keep us in, or others out; boundaries can be fences with gates. To let the bad out and the good in. Boundaries provide freedom. The fall was the crossing of a boundary – God told Adam and Eve they could eat of any fruit but not one particular one, they were boundaried. But what did they do? Crossed the boundary – and the result was the fall.
Boundaries are important, but they should not be used to divide us.
A lot of people I’ve spoken to recently have mentioned boundary problems; though they haven’t expressed it in those terms; it might be work-home life balance, parent-child issues, job roles, the list could go on. I’ve a few boundary problems at work – I have two part-time jobs at which there is some overlap, I’m also a personal tutor for some students; the boundaries can become challenged. Everywhere I turn at the moment the question of boundaries comes up.
Another book I have been reading recently also dealt with boundaries. Richard Mouw’s brilliant book on Abraham Kuyper. Have I mentioned Kuyper before?
Anyway – as I read one section it made much sense to me and made some issues clear. I hope for some of you it will do the same – it may for some be a word in season, as it was for me, or it may be something to ponder, or it may be something you can disregard with the response He follows Kuyper!
Quote from page 25:
The way in which a parent exercises authority over a child should be different from the way a manager exercises authority over staff, or a professor over students, or a coach over team players. This means too that the skills associated with a specific mode of authority do not automatically transfer to other spheres.
Imagine a woman and a man who are related in three different ways. She is the young man's mother. She is also an elder in the church where their family worships. And she is the academic dean at the university where her son serves on the faculty. Suppose, though, that the young man commits a serious crime — using, for example, a university computer for illicit sexual purposes. As his dean she will be required to fire him. As his church elder she might participate in a decision to place him under some form of ecclesiastical discipline — requiring, say, some special expression of penitence to God and to the community as a part of a process of spiritual restoration, and if he is not repentant, she may have to agree to a decision to excommunicate him from church membership. But as his mother she continues to love him unconditionally as a member of the family; she never entertains thoughts of "disowning" him as a son.
In each case her authority role is a different one, as is also the basis for her acceptance of him within each relationship. In the university she judges his fitness to remain a member of the community by some straightforwardly formal standards of vocational performance. In the church, she also enforces certain norms, but here with a pastoral openness to repentance and spiritual renewal. In the family, the ties go much deeper — so much so that the bond is not easily broken by either bad performance or unrepentant sin. In short, the authority exercised by a dean is different from that of an elder, and each differs from the parental role. And this is because families are families, churches are churches, and the academy is the academy. So if the young man were to complain to his mother, "How can you fire me from my teaching job? — I'm your son," he would be blurring the boundaries of the spheres.
Other important word is perspectives. We all see things from our own perspective, we can’t help but!
But we need to see that we don’t see it all.
We need to try and spend time in other people’s shoes.
The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.
Our view of things is only partial – as this advert for the Guardian newspaper shows.