Updated on August 3, 2016
Boundaries are not the same as barriers – Let’s not build barriers!
Faithfulness is the concept of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something and putting that loyalty into consistent practice, regardless of extenuating circumstances. – Wikipedia
The Apostle Paul told the Galatian believers that faithfulness was evidence of a Spirit-led life.
In his list of the fruits of the Spirit, Paul instructed the people how to interact and be in relationship with each other.
Don’t be like everybody else, he cautioned. Be different. Love each other. Be faithful to one another. (See Galatians 5)
“Faithfulness is unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something.” For me this is one of those difficult truths about the Spirit-led life. Relationships are not always easy, so sometimes we choose to be faithful because it’s the right thing to do, not the thing we want to do. Sometimes we have to place a boundary around relationships because it’s the healthy thing to do.
But boundaries are different than barriers. Sadly, in many churches today, we’re seeing a lack of faithfulness toward people. In our search for right living and pleasing God, we build walls around others because we condemn their choices or behavior. We create barriers, not boundaries. Our fear is that remaining in relationship with someone whom we believe to be “in sin,” would give the appearance of condoning what they do. But that does not model the example of Christ. Jesus’ example was one of breaking down walls and barriers, not erecting them to keep himself separate and apart.
Peter, after denying he knew Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ death, wasn’t rejected or shamed by Jesus. He was loved and accepted by him. Jesus affirmed Peter. Jesus tore down the emotional barrier that stood between him and Peter. He gave Peter the gift of restored relationship.
When the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned, Jesus rose to her defense. He asked those who were about to throw rocks of judgment if they had any sin they might want to confess before condemning her to death. They all walked away. Jesus, the only one in the crowd who was without sin, had the right to stone her. He didn’t.
Neither do I condemn you, he said. (See John 8)
Now before you go and say that I forgot the second part of the verse that says, “Go and sin no more,” I want you first to ask yourself how that go-and-sin-no-more-thing is working for you. For me, it’s a daily struggle.
And I think that’s the thing. We have focused on the go-and-sin-no-more stuff, and forgotten that we need to focus on the neither-do-I-condemn-you stuff.
What would happen if we just loved people? If we stood at the doors of our churches, our homes and our communities and opened our arms to people without trying to change them? Would our families become stronger? Would our faith become purer? Would people begin to love others in the same way they experience love from us?
More and more people are leaving our churches and leaving faith in Christ. They are doing so because of you and me. In our quest to be faithful to God, we have lost our faithfulness to others. We’ve erected walls that keep people out instead of building bridges that welcome them in.
Someone once told me that people don’t have to approve of my actions to love and accept me as a person. I’m choosing faithfulness. I’m choosing love. I’m choosing relationships. I’m choosing to accept others, whether I approve of their actions or not.