I wish Stanley could know how many people are benefiting from his story. Your shares and comments indicate this topic of elevating personal preference over scripture — and either pressuring or being pressured to conform — is common.
So what happens when we feel others are wanting us to be their clone or it at least seems they believe they’re boundaries should be shared by all?
We remember the gospel.
Sometimes Christians can be sadly similar to our unbelieving counterparts. When someone tempts us to feel inferior we gossip instead of humbling approaching them for a face to face chat. If a friend has it “more together” than we do, jealousy rather than respect can churn in our hearts. When someone’s laziness or irresponsibility pulls their boundaries in closer than we think they should be we criticize and judge rather than pray and support.
Should Christians respond differently than non-Christians when relationships get messy?
I have been on both the giving and receiving end of critical judgements about my boundaries. During a sad and painful season of my life some years ago I could hardly function due to the weight of grief and depression resulting from wave after crashing wave of challenging circumstances involving people I love. Yet rather than receiving empathy and care during that time I felt scrutinized and judged for not being more others-focused. Then during another season a friend courageously communicated that she felt I was elevating my way of doing things as a mother and homemaker as superior to her (and possibly others), leaving her wondering if I based my acceptance of her on how well she was adhering to my standards. Ouch.
Boundaries change. People have different preferences and passions. Some women don’t think the house is really clean until the ceiling fans and baseboards are dusted while others think homemakers like that are neurotic. One employee believes getting the job done right means working evenings and weekends when needed while co-workers watch TV and go to the beach once their 40 hours are clocked. Some couples regularly set aside weekly date nights to connect and converse when friends seem to do fine maintaining their relationship without consistent time out.
Remembering the gospel means acknowledging that the only One who was perfectly able to set and fulfill the standard for godliness was killed because absolutely no one else could. Only Jesus Christ was the perfect son, brother, co-worker and friend. He alone showed us how to live a life worth fully emulating. We don’t know if he cared about dusted ceiling fans or how much overtime he worked. (As I sometimes reminded my kids, it’s likely he was pretty tidy because he paused to fold his grave clothes before exiting the tomb; wish it had helped the neatness in my kids rooms! Oh well….) And if He was ever late, messy, didn’t clean his room, or worked more or less than others it certainly wasn’t because He was sinning.
Making ourselves the standard for others and then judging them likewise is playing God in their lives. Instead of looking to Christ we tempt people to look to us. The problem is this: people can actually achieve our standard but we can never, ever achieve His. Women can be guilted into keeping their laundry done and employees can be made to work unplanned overtime. But no one can become perfect. Only perfection can say, “Follow me.” The cross provides hope that His indwelling presence and power can conform us to His image — but frees us from having to conform to anyone else’s.
So do we just leave it with “no one’s perfect” and accept our and others boundaries unquestioned? Does contentment equal acceptance of boundaries that seem misplaced? Can Christians lovingly challenge and help each other to embrace necessary changes that rightly bring our boundaries closer in or further out?
That’s for tomorrow’s post.