Wednesday, April 16, 2008

...and so fulfill the law of Christ

OK - so no surprise. I struggle with internalizing other people's problems and hurts. Even if I don't know them. I have a friend who tells me I need to stop. I need to set boundaries, because it effects me so much. I have a problem with that. I remember struggling with this about a year ago as I walked a labyrinth at a church retreat. On the surface it sounds good, and logical. I know a lot of churches spend a lot of time going through the Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I understand why. I do. But that doesn't make sense to me in light of verses like Galatians 6:2. Or in light of Christ's example. He didn't set those boundaries and refuse to listen, refuse to meet people where they are, refuse to help. And, I don't think this just applies to friends and their problems. It applies to people in poverty, people at the receiving end of injustice, people who are ill - physically or mentally. This verse is the practical working out of the command to love your neighbor. So how can I possibly just sit back and let people struggle, even if it's just emotionally, or intellectually? No matter what their burden I have been told to help bear the burden. And in this way fulfill the law of Christ. So we need to go beyond asking who our neighbor is as the lawyer did in Luke 10 (the parable of the Good Samaritan), and say "what can I do to help?" God has entered into our messy lives, our problems, sins, and needs. He didn't hide behind a boundary. We, as followers of Christ, must be incarnational too - and I'm not sure how boundaries figure into this command.

I for one am glad that Jesus didn't set boundaries.....

Galatians 6:2

Bear ye one another's burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (NIV)


Christi Bowman said...

Hey Karen...I found Galations 6:2 & 3 in the Message too (I LOVE Eugene Peterson). Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
I think you are matter how badly it hurts us, we have to enter into other's burdens...and setting boundaries is just another Americanized idea of Christianity. Americans are all about boundaries, but I don't see examples of that in Christ's life. I think you see where He needed to get away to pray, so He needed some alone time with God...that doesn't mean He set up boundaries on entering into pain. You keep it matter how painful it becomes to you. And if it does become to much, take some alone time with God...and tell Him all about it!! :)

ness said...

What a great question you pose, Karen. I deeply appreciate it. For me, it comes down to listening...when I hear about something, I listen to God nudging me to do something. And if something comes to mind that I can do, I do it. I can't do it all. I can't adopt every kid or feed every hungry person, or buy sleeping bags for all the homeless, but if I just do what God asks of me, that is what I can do and I trust Him to work on other people too.

Hope this helps. Boundaries Schmounderies.

Charlotte Wyncoop said...

Hmm...isn't there good on both sides of the coin? And didn't Jesus set good boundaries examples? First, yes, I agree, boundaries schmoundries when it comes to helping others. Second, I disagree - boundaries yes! when it comes to other's determining how or what my help should look like. When Peter told Jesus he shouldn't go to the cross, Jesus told him "get behind me." When Martha complained about Mary, Jesus held his ground and protected Mary's right to be involved.

Boundaries should be a good thing - at least the way Jesus did it. His boundary lines included everything within his Father's purpose for Him - and excluded anything outside that purpose. Therefore, any suggestions or demands people lay on us could be tested against that line in the sand - is it in my realm of responsibility or outside it?

I admit - I've heard the boundaries discussion used as an excuse to do nothing when presented with a need. But I can't see that as an admission of God's intent for my life. If God directs my life and I want him to shape me into what He originally intended, then I have to receive the circumstances around me as agents of that inner change. On the opposite side, part of that growth is recognizing those who would stand in the way of that purpose, and opposing their intent.

And sometimes that takes drawing a line in the sand. My mom is a great example: some Sundays she co-leads adult Sunday school, leads kid's sunday school, plays for worship, manages the prayer requests, and coordinates the after church potluck. Hmmm. Are they all something she is intended to do by God? I doubt it - she doesn't have time to connect with people or help anyone out on a personal level. Why does she do it? She was asked...there was a "need"...and she says that she likes to feel needed. But as we talk about it, it becomes clearer that the "need" is someone else pushing to fill a slot and my mom finds herself a round peg in a square hole.

Boundaries can be good things - it can be a way of saying "yes, this is what God has given me a heart for, and the motivation to make a real difference..." But when the culture discusses boundaries as a means of excusing us from our responsibilities - well, that's where I say "boundaries schmoundaries."

gerbmom said...

Char I agree, I guess by boundaries I was meaning more with respect to justice issues, poverty issues, friends with problems whether it be financial need or personal struggles. In this case I was not referring to "busy work" or every "Leadership" need that rolls my way. I have learned to set boundaries here, I have learned to say no. And I do.
I was more thinking of entering into life with somebody and their problems... hence the burdens. Not the 80/20 type stuff from Mike's post.
Does that make sense?

Charlotte Wyncoop said...

Yeah, it does. But why would we boundary there - like you said...
If we don't get into each other's lives, then what's more important to us? The next rerun? Do people who want to boundary out these people problems, just not want to live outside their box? Which of course begs the introspection question - when I don't open up to others and wall them out, what is motivating me? Hmmm, great question and deep thoughts provoked...
I am selfish - my issues have centerstage so I can't make time for others.
I am insensitive - I can't see it or feel it because I can't become that person enough to empathize.
I am scared - what might be demanded next?
I am stagnant - too much effort to change and come alongside, it upsets the status quo.
Hmmm....Karen, how does it work for you?