We hear a lot about border crossings today. A border checkpoint is a place, generally between two countries, where travelers or goods are inspected. Authorization often is required to enter a country through its borders. Access-controlled borders often have a limited number of checkpoints where one can cross without legal sanctions. In the United States, we have borders with Mexico and Canada. As we are aware, crossing them illegally can get you arrested. Borders define your land, much like your property lines in your yard. In addition, the government of a region can only create and enforce laws within its borders. Borders mark separation from one place to another.
There were well-defined borders in the Bible. These borders were especially true when it came to the holiness code of the Jewish faith. The code recognized that Israel’s people were separated from the rest of the world because God had chosen them. The code also established borders between the holy and the unholy, the healthy and the sick, the righteous and the sinner. An individual of the day knew where they stood when it came to borders. You were on the inside, or you were on the outside, and the border was not easy to cross.
When you read the Gospel stories of Jesus, it appears that Jesus didn’t pay a lot of attention to the border rules of the day. Jesus was quite aware of the distinct separation that existed at the time. However, Jesus seemed to freely cross the borders as well as welcoming others who crossed over to meet him. Jesus did not worry that he was a Jewish Rabbi, but instead, he invested himself in others’ lives, regardless of what side of the border they came from. As a result, throughout the Gospels, you see Jesus interacting with those suffering from disease, tax collectors, women, children, Samaritans, Gentiles, and whoever else had a label upon them as being outsiders from the right side of the boarder. Jesus illegally crossed borders to share God’s love with people. It didn’t win him any points with the religious authorities who always complained about his loose interpretation of the law. For Jesus, grace just trumped borders.
In our modern society, we, too, can find ourselves resting safely on our side of the border when it comes to living our lives. We tend to hang with the same crowd and are often reluctant to reach out, engage, and befriend those who may be different. We develop an us and them mentality, and we like it best when everyone knows their place. As followers of Jesus, however, this is not an option. As Jesus’ disciples, we must be willing to live in a world without borders, where every person is worthy of love. As Christians, we do not get to pick and choose our borders, but we are called to stretch beyond our comfort zones and into the lives of those around us. The Christian faith is about building bridges, not walls. We must seek to model our lives after Jesus, who welcomed all.
When the early church found itself beginning to set up its borders, the apostle Paul wrote, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7) When we cross borders and enter into the lives of others, then we bring praise to God. When we reach out in love and acceptance of others, we worship God. It is no wonder then that the scriptures remind us about our place of worship, “My house will be a house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7) There are no borders for God, but only people to be loved, embraced, and befriended.