Meditations in Meaning & Values 9: A World of Boundaries
Gen 1:9,10 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
In the previous meditation we reminded ourselves that we are considering meaning, purpose and values in life, initially helped by the jaded writing of Solomon in Ecclesiastes. At one point I found myself writing, enjoyment or pleasure is a gift of God and yet we can so easily abuse it by excess or by chasing it across forbidden boundaries. Now we did consider that some more, but the idea of boundaries has stayed with me, so much so that I believe we need to consider it more generally now.
In our verses above during the Creation process, God establishes the earth with land and seas and generally speaking they are fixed, boundaries have been set, but in the course of centuries we do know that sometimes coastlands change. With rising sea levels according to those who speak of the effects of greenhouse gases raising world temperature levels so polar ice melts and sea levels rise, we may anticipate that if this is true, then those ‘boundaries’ may change considerably because of the folly of mankind.
Although that is a picture of physical reality it does steer us in the direction of realising that God has so designed this world – and us on it – with boundaries. Now the thing about a boundary is that it is a point of limit but there is something beyond it. If you were driving across Europe you would be in one country and would eventually come to a boundary or the frontier beyond which is the next country.
Now when you apply this to ethics, you realise that there are things we can do but maybe they are things we should not do. In the previous meditation we noted using drugs, drinking in excess, sexual promiscuity and so on, and all these things are examples of how we can do something but in so doing we have crossed over one of God’s boundaries and entered forbidden territory.
Now what we did not pick up on previously is what happens when we cross the boundary. Our self-centred conceit, aided by the whispers of Satan, suggest that we will be all right., there will not be any negative effects of crossing the boundary. This is the lie of Satan, seen in Gen 3, and it is a lie because in a very down to earth, simple to understand way, God has designed us to work in a particular way, and when we ignore that, life ‘breaks down’.
The analogy of caring for a car applies well here. You buy a new car and you get a manual that tells you how to keep it running, how often to have it serviced, how often to have the oil changed, how often to change the tyres and so on. Now imagine an idiot who utterly disregards and ignores the manual. He never has the car serviced and after five years has an accident because the tyres were threadbare and the engine locked up at a crucial moment. We called such a person an idiot because the ‘boundaries’ for him were a given period of time when, if the manual could talk, he would have heard, “Stop. Get the car serviced. If you continue any further without a service you will be in trouble.”
Now if that is true of a car, and it is true of any mechanical thing or piece of technology that has been designed to work in a particular way, why do we think that we are different, that rules of ‘running properly’ don’t apply to us. Whenever in the Bible we come across a “You shall not….” we are observing a boundary warning and to go beyond the boundary means trouble. We need to be very clear here: when God says ‘don’t’ it is because there is a very real, practical reason for saying that. If you ignore it, things really will go wrong in a big way and it is only our foolishness that thinks it will be all right.
Stop and go through the latter half of the Ten Commandments and think through the practical things that will backlash in our lives if you disregard them – “Honor your father and your mother, – “You shall not murder – “You shall not commit adultery – “You shall not steal – “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor – “You shall not covet. If you really think through each of those ‘boundaries’ to cross them will mean a whole series of bad things following.
We must say it again; the Bible is not full of ‘God being nasty’ prohibitions. Whenever He says ‘don’t’ He is saying it in love to try to get you to avoid pain, for you and for others.
To conclude on not such a strong note, we should also note that there are ‘boundaries’ in as far as there is a reality beyond which you simply cannot go. When the Matrix films first came out there was some talk about the Hindu thinking behind them that reality is what you make of it but the truth is that we live in a material world and whatever we may think, we are bound by it. So if I want to leave a room, I have to use a door or a window; I cannot walk through walls. If I want to fly I have to employ an aircraft of some kind and I am bound by gravity. If I get shut in an airless container I will suffocate; I need oxygen. We are designed to work and life in a material world.
When it comes to the spiritual world, again the Lord has laid down boundaries for our protection, so no witchcraft, no dabbling with the occult, and no spiritualism. The boundaries are there and we ignore them at our peril, and the Gospels are full of instances of Jesus having to deal with the demonic because people ignored the boundaries. So, whenever we come across one of these boundary warnings whether it is about steering clear of the occult world, maintaining right relationships or living rightly, the boundaries are there confirming or warning of the way the Lord has made the world. We can cross the boundaries (we have that ability) but we should not cross them because bad always follows. If we have crossed them in the past, the way of restoration is through repentance and Jesus’ work on the Cross. Failure to go down this path laid down by God, means we are vulnerable to worse things coming our way, not necessarily because God sends them but because they are the automatic outworking of stepping across the boundary into the minefield. You have been warned.