Posted by: rogermitchell | June 20, 2010

The boundary of choice

When it comes to living God’s way in the world it seems that the boundary of choice is unavoidable. Yet it seems to be deliberately fuzzy. I remember Roger Forster once saying that God would be a universalist if he could. If God is love then that is both true and impossible. That’s to say he wants everyone to love like he does but cannot force them to. So everyone gets the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible. This is presumably what Paul is getting at when he says that because the love of God controls him he regards no-one from a human point of view any longer. I see this other fuzzy boundary of choosing to love everybody unconditionally as disclosing a secondary, fore-running  people of God. This clearly is not the old inside/ outside church boundary, as lots of people within those boundaries are not part of this community of love. But while it is important to keep this boundary opaque, we need to encourage one another to stay within this boundary so that we can serve the world with love. So there is an ‘iron sharpens iron’ within this grouping of people that strengthens and encourages the repositioned ecclesia. While I think that it was this that my friend was getting at when she spoke of what blogging can’t do so well as face to face contact, I agree that we all need to be careful that we don’t confuse this boundary with the insecure, divisive ‘them and us’ walls of the church.



  1. Roger:

    I’ve been mind wrestling this topic since you introduced it in the previous blog. Ummm. I think it comes down to this – under pre-tree existence and post-tree redeemed existence, there are no rules. We do not know the difference between good and evil and therefore cannot make rules to judge the difference and respond to the difference. That leads to some very interesting stuff which, it is late, that I will avoid right now.

    In terms of how we live then, since it seems impossible in human society to live without some sort of rules, I think we need to recognize love. We need to know it when we see it. So often we confuse love with what we have ruled (or believe God has ruled) as good. And we see what we have ruled as evil as automatically not possibly love. And too often we are wrong because we have delineated between good and evil in order to feel safer and organize our societies and gain power or comfort, but we have failed to understand and recognize love.

    If we choose to live apart from the rules about good and evil (while not choosing to become a ruthless sociopath in the process) then we must learn to recognize and choose love, and that requires a new level of relationship with the Trinity.

  2. I woke up to day with the bit in Eph 3 going around in my mind. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power together with all the saints , to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Amazing!

  3. such an important discussion. Universalism is very appealing and gaining some strong plausible support. for me cannot sit with the all are condemned except those inside the boundary, but also cannot jump to the universalist side.

    had a thought this morning – maybe we need to add ‘faith and hope’ to love? These three remain, but the greatest is love. maybe faith and hope (and not been too healthy in evangelical circles with the hope of the destruction of the world!!!) could be what adds an opaque and broad boundary?

  4. I like the addition of faith and hope very much. It seems to me that God was manifesting both in the creation. They had hope and faith that we would choose love. So our attitude to everyone needs to be filled with this, like them. Doesn’t make us utterly naϊve in our attitude to people, hence John’s comment that Jesus didn’t trust himself to absolutely everybody, but does mean that we would far rather find a way to include people rather than exclude people. A bit like the final scenes of Chocolat that was showing on UK TV last night!

  5. Can there be love without faith and hope? In the sense of the unconditional love/hope/faith, they must surely operate together as a codependent, vibrant, expansive trinity.

    I’m a little bit stuck at the desire for an opaque boundary (see my comments to the previous post) because I’m not so sure that there’s an easy way to arrive at one without being too restrictive. One man’s faith is another man’s fallacy etc. That’s not a foray into relativism only a recognition that the history of the church – indeed of humanity – is to exclude defensively and unnecessarily. Boundaries reflect the priorities and anxieties of those who set them.

    I suppose it’s difficult to get very far with this without first being clear about why we might need to perceive such a boundary and, of course, the underlying question of salvation and what limits that might have.

    Forster’s phrase sounds good, though I am sure I still discern in it the vestiges of an authoritarian God. Isn’t it better to say that God *is* a universalist in the sense that he is wide open for it and has never done anything to prevent it? It is then humanity that has chosen the boundaried path, except where the wall gets punched through and perforated. God is only *not* a universalist if it is solely up to him (ie if he is sovereignly in control of the outcome). Excitingly, if the wall is perforated in many places, doesn’t the boundary lose its function? Isn’t that the eschatological reality? For sure Jesus showed us how it can fall like the walls of Jericho.

  6. Loving this discussion – thanks! Stephen’s last point is crucial. He wants none to ‘perish’.
    It was for freedom that we are set free. That is why James implores us to submit ourselves to God, to the Way of love, to Kenarchy. Otherwise our freedom without hope/faith/love becomes a monstrous place for abuse and/ of power.

    I heard from a friend, who works in the political sphere that 70% of the world’s wealth is now tied up in land and property. There are some crazy boundaries that really do lock people up and keep people shut out.

    If the Earth is the Lord’s then is border control kenarchic? Which personal Borders/boundaries do we rightfully/wrongfully control? I think this is where freedom and submission radically and wondefully are met in the cross, where the boundary we made between us and the trinity is torn in two and is absolutely the place where all other walls can come down. Here there is hope for Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan, etc etc Here there is faith for those places. Here there is love enough, that if chosen, would give the breaking of all boundaries of hate.

    What then of boundaries of love? Do we perceive open marriages or no discipline for kids a good thing? No way! The boundaries we set are tied up in the consequences of the law of love – the new commandment. That is why God welcomes all but allows us to face the consequences of our rejection of the Trinitarian way……either in the current age, in which we suffer corporately those consequences or eternally by not inheriting the eternal shalom that is for all (wide berth) who are in Christ.

  7. Can I ask if “one another” is a boundary?

  8. there may be something in eph. 2:14 where it says that Jesus “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” ? so Jesus destroys the Gentile/Jew in-group/out-group boundary. If so then He removes ALL boundaries/walls of separation, for the Middle wall of separation represented the most marked of all boundaries? But then he ties-it in to new creation life, to a new man, in order to have peace. It seems the removal of the boundary is not enough? we must have new life?

  9. Yep, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say in today’s blog “Rooted and grounded in love”

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