Chaos is a marauding force, pressing in on the boundaries that hold back its destructive force. When those boundaries collapse chaos blasts through.
Moses on Sinai gave us boundaries of Law, and Jesus on the Hill of Beatitudes presented boundaries of love.
Here’s a brief survey of some of those boundaries Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount:
Boundaries of love and relationship: In Exodus 20:14, God declares in the Law “You shall not commit adultery”.
In pre-marital counseling as a pastor, I always urged couples to have a “three-thirds” marriage that brings the totality of themselves into the relationship.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 explains that we as human beings are made in the image of God. We are “triune”: a “trinity” of spirit, soul, and body.
A man or woman’s personal relationship with God is the mighty foundation of the boundary wall of love. Thus, at its very center, a marital relationship must be the joining of “spirit.” This is the “organ” in every human interaction with God and the whole of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Adultery is intimacy outside the bounds of holiness. It fractures not only the relationship between one another but also the intimacy with God.
A cosmos marriage doesn’t mean that the individuals have the same way of thinking and emoting. One of the strengths of our 61-year marriage is that my wife and I are two individuals with different spiritual gift combinations, which leads to different ways of seeing the world. We seek to submit to and receive one another in our individuality as well as our oneness through the marital relationship.
The second level of the “triune” person is the soul, the “organ” of thought, emotion, and will. Again, these functions must be grounded in God, His love for us, and our love for Him.
The body is the means by which we interact physically with external material phenomena. In a marriage that means the physical joining of the man and woman.
I have used marriage here as the prime example of the three-thirds relationship, but the love-bounded principles should be foundational in all interactions, from home to the workplace and beyond.
Moses brought down from gritty Sinai the rock-hard law boundaries by which we must live if we are going to stand against the tides of chaos in a fallen world. In Mattew 5:5-12, Jesus presented the boundaries of love one afternoon on a grassy hillside beside the Sea of Galilee.
A boundary against pride: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
No matter how religious and gifted we are, we must always recognize that we are not beyond the need for spiritual growth and must remain teachable.
A boundary against indifference: “Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
This is a strong boundary against a frivolous dismissal of the pain of others and the ability to see the suffering of a culture without God. Christ’s followers are not to contribute to the chaos of society by being dismissive of the sorrows humans bring upon themselves and others.
A boundary against cruelty and force: “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The “gentle” are those who behave in accordance with the law of love and its personal restraint. They may be strong enough to wreak violence and disorder, and bring fury to the crazed world, but instead choose the boundaries of love to govern their behaviors toward individuals and the worlds they share.
A boundary against willful ignorance of the effects of evil: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
There is a strong temptation in our chaotic civilization of many varieties to shelter oneself from injustices and pains. There is also a passion among many to chase and embrace evil. There are others who refuse to tear down the boundaries of moral and social sorrow and pursue and contribute to the manifestation of suffering brought by evil and ignorance. They allow themselves to feel the pains of their age and run away from it.
A boundary against complacency regarding the pain of others: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Cruelty is unleashed on a nation, a culture, and its individuals when the people take advantage of the weak and other sufferers.
A boundary against the pornographic, lewd and immoral: "Blessed are the pure in heart for they see God.”
Sex addiction is driving the hearts of multitudes in our world. Many have been drawn into a dark addiction-driven existence from which there seems no escape.
A boundary against causing and promoting conflict: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Society is increasingly dominated by people whose aim is to cause conflict between various groups. Only in Christ, the Prince of Peace, will lion and lamb lie down together… and humans find peace among themselves.
A boundary against a life of fear, escapism, and withdrawal: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Enter at Your Own Risk was the title of the first book I wrote. Many enter the Christian life hoping it will bring them safety, security, and wealth. But Jesus Himself said that all who seek to follow Him would be persecuted. For some that persecution is horribly physical. For others, it is marginalization or cancellation. However, Jesus erected the boundary: Don’t give up amidst the terrors of an existential moment because the eternal Kingdom is coming.
The boundaries of law show us practically how to live, and the boundaries of love are monuments to the strength and hope God will give us when chaos tries to smother us and our relationships.
May you find joy and peace inside the boundaries of the Good Shepherd!
Wallace B. Henley is a former pastor, daily newspaper editor, White House and Congressional aide. He served 18 years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Henley is author or co-author of more than 25 books, including God and Churchill, co-authored with Sir Winston Churchill's great grandson, Jonathan Sandys. Henley's latest book is Who will rule the coming 'gods'? The looming spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence.