Welcome! Let’s talk about boundaries, which we need to make good, ethical choices.
On what should we base the boundaries we establish in our life? It‘s not enough to base our morality on the Ten Commandments or other boundaries mentioned in the Bible. That’s because it’s not the rules themselves that create lasting change in us, but our relationship with their source, God.
Josh McDowell has recorded many videos on the topic of making right moral choices, which you can watch here. In this post, let’s look at two analogies Josh mentions in those videos, to better understand that God’s boundaries are good, not punitive.
The Source of the Precepts and Principles
As Josh reminds us, biblical boundaries are ONLY important because of the source of their moral authority. Skeptics argue that the Bible is “man-made,” but they’re wrong. The Bible is “God-breathed,” dictating a high ethical standard that humanity struggles to mirror. Even on our best days we screw up.
A little gossip here, a little envy there, a slip of judgment here, a whole lot of unloving everywhere.
God’s boundaries aren’t about His ego, but our best life. As Josh masterfully explains in his videos, within every biblical precept — every “Thou Shalt Not!!” — is a moral principle based on the person and character and nature of God. Let’s look at two examples, so we understand what Josh means.
Example #1: The moral principal of honesty undergirds the precept “Thou Shalt Not Lie.” But the reason that lying is morally wrong is because God and Jesus are TRUTH.
Example #2: The moral principal of respecting the sanctity of life undergirds the precept “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” But the reason that killing is morally wrong is because God and Jesus are LIFE.
Likewise, we are to seek justice because God and Jesus are JUST. We are to seek purity because God and Jesus are PURE. We are to reject hate because God and Jesus are LOVE.
In a nutshell, any choice we can make that is contrary to God’s nature is morally wrong. God doesn’t tell us how to think and act to bend us to His will. Rather, He lovingly created guidelines for our protection and provision.
Let’s use the umbrella in the photo above to symbolize the protection of God’s guidelines.
When we follow God’s rules, we stay dry. But when we willfully choose to walk — or run! — into the rain, we wind up with wet clothes, if not pneumonia. “It’s always an act of love on God’s part to protect us and provide for us,” says Josh. “But when, through an act of disobedience by a decision of our own will we ignore God’s precepts, we remove ourselves from the very protection and provision of those precepts.”
An analogy Josh shares further drives this point home:
Two teenagers, bored on a hot, summer night, remember that a neighbor has a backyard pool. They also remember that the neighbors are on vacation. They decide to sneak over to enjoy a refreshing swim. They giggle as they clammer over the tall backyard fence, willfully ignoring the posted “No Trespassing!” and “No swimming!” signs.
The girl cautiously makes her way across the unlit backyard as her boyfriend races to the diving board. With one hard bounce, he catapults his body high into the air. The girl’s laugh turns to a shriek as she reaches the pool’s edge and realizes there is no water in the pool. The impact of the boy’s dive snaps his neck, instantly paralyzing him.
The homeowners didn’t post the warnings to take fun from the boy’s life, but to protect him. In disregarding the posted warnings, he moved himself into danger.
God’s Tall Ladder Perspective
Like this young man, we often don’t see the looming dangers. Or we minimize the consequences of stepping into sin. “How much can it hurt?” we ask ourselves. Unfortunately, you and I have a very limited perspective. God, on the other hand, sees every possible scenario — and their resulting joys and sorrows.
Have you ever entered one of those corn mazes? (The kind that stresses me out because I’m claustrophobic AND a control freak?!) At every junction you ask, “Should I turn right? Or left, perhaps?” And with every wrong turn and dead-end, you get more confused about where you are in the maze, and the location of the correct path leading to the exit. If you only had a birds-eye view!
If you had a guide — a trustworthy source — perched atop a really high ladder, you’d have help in making the right choices to successfully navigate the maze. In life we can consistently make right choices, and enjoy much good in life, by following God’s guidelines and boundaries.
God: “Do you believe that I love you and want to bless you with provision and protection? Then commit to my boundaries. They are for your good, because I am good.”
From His eternal perspective, God does life with us, asking, “Want to avoid heartache? Follow my precepts; don’t deviate. Want to avoid that addiction? Follow my precepts; don’t deviate. Want to be successful in business? Follow my precepts; don’t deviate. Want to experience true, meaningful love? Follow my precepts; don’t deviate.”
But sometimes we get it into our heads that we know better than God. So we make willful choices outside of His boundaries, and must then suffer the consequences.
Spend some time reflecting on your life, and how choosing to live within God’s boundaries has protected you. But also look at the times you willfully stepped beyond His umbrella of protection and had to endure the fallout. Here’s the thing about sin: the repercussions aren’t always immediately evident. Sometimes we think we’ve gotten away with it. But sin eventually demands our payment.
“Unless we each come to understand that ‘God loves me’ and ‘I can trust Him,'” adds Josh, “we will never walk through life dependent on the character of God to make right choices.”
In our next blog post, let’s look further at the topic of actual truth, and how to identify it.
Catch up: The introductory post to this series.