I recently enjoyed a series of talks by James Riley on a 'Boundaryless God'. Jesus challenged the boundaries set by the religious system of his day (e.g. Who is my neighbour? How many times must I forgive?). But where does this leave us in living out our Christianity? Are boundaries useful at all in terms of our fellowship, worship, and services? There is certainly some guidance in the Bible to suggest that boundaries can be useful in some of these areas - but where we choose to set them may be more a product of our cultural context than absolute 'right' or 'wrong'.
Part of human psychology tends towards 'in/out' groups. Whilst these are comfortable and there are some senses in which the idea of being in a group of fellow Christians is promoted (e.g. Eph 5:11, Heb 10:25), Jesus challenged this idea with the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Here, the Jews that Jesus was addressing were being taught to consider those who were very much in an ‘out' group (the Samaritans) as their neighbour. The implications for us are obvious.
We like to know where we are as humans - and rules and regulations provide a sense of security. When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive, offering a generous 7 times, Jesus' response would have taken him aback I expect (490 times - Matt 18:22). Clearly, this wasn't a quota of forgiveness - Jesus' point is that our capacity to forgive should be without limit, just like God's (Isa 43:25-26, 1 John 1:9).
And what of boundaries around our church services? There's not a lot of biblical guidance about exactly how our services should be configured (see 1 Cor 11-14). Also, there are some examples of praising and worshiping God in ways that we may find uncomfortable, like dancing and shouting (2 Sam 6:17-22, Psa 33:1, 1 Tim 2:8)! This doesn't mean that we all have to get down and boogie next time we go to church, but it does raise the idea that our cultural context may explain many boundaries around praise and worship, rather than 'rights' and 'wrongs' derived from Bible teaching!
I found it useful to challenge myself with where I set my boundaries - and why. I hope you do too!