Wednesday, January 26, 2005

permeable boundaries

I've been thinking about boundaries.

On Sunday I was preaching on the Good Samaritan. For all its being a parable about doing good to everyone, it's a story about boundaries, told in answer to a lawyer's question about who's in and who's out of the people of God (context is all...!)

Now I'm preparing some thoughts for Sunday evening, continuing our series on work. Paul in 1 Thessalonians wants his readers to live in a way that's distinct from their pagan neighbours. He particularly focuses on sexual ethics and cultic practices. There are boundaries to be observed.

This means the Christian community is not an indistinct, shapeless thing. You can look at it from outside and see definite boundaries, set by behaviours that are accepable and those that aren't. It was why the Thessalonian Christians were being given a hard time by their neighbours.

But unlike virtually every other group in the ancient world, the Christian community's boundaries are permeable. They are not set by birth, ethnicity, social class, status, job, postcode, whatever. The boundary is faith in Jesus. On one side there's no faith; on the other there is faith.

The trouble is that the Christian community has established all kinds of supplementary boundaries - dress code, alcohol and cigarettes, language, theological nit-picking, liturgical tastes, you name it, we use to divide ourselves from others.

We need to get back to the simple things, don't we?

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