Dealectics of Boundaries (OCYM Theme 2009)


Dialectics
of Boundaries

Metropolitan Yuhanon Mor Meletius

Introduction

The
Bible has beautifully portrayed the relationship between human and Divine. It is
said, ‘God created human in his own image and likeness’ and ‘He breathed in
to human’s nostrils the breath of life’ (Gen. 1:26; 2:7). Thus a unique relationship is established which will help human be one with God. Theologians explain
this as God’s plan to make human one ‘like God’. Becoming one like God is
through a steady and long process and hence our becoming lies in the future. This
process was made concrete in the work and life of God’s Son and our Savior
Jesus Christ. Orthodox Church fathers have proclaims this in their own words,
‘God became human that human shall become one like God’. This is worked out in human’s
fellowship with God and in cooperation with fellow creation. We need to travel
a long way to get this accomplished. Before we reach that goal, on the path
there are boundaries that are to be respected and protected.

Boundaries

The passages in the Bible that details with the event of creation talks about these
boundaries. Primarily there are two of them. First, the limitation set on
use of resources. Though God said that human can eat the fruit of all
trees (Gen. 1:30; 2:16) He prevented them from eating the fruit of a particular
tree (2:17). Second is in regard to the boundary regarding use of time. There
are seven days in a week but God allowed only six days to work. Seventh day is
the day of blessing and rest. Human being is entrusted with the responsibility of
keeping and protecting everything in creation (Gen. 2:15). This protecting is
applicable in protecting the boundaries in creation too.  This protective life style is essential for
the ultimate liberation of humans from all boundaries.

Freedom
beyond the boundaries

People
who were liberated from slavery in Egypt journeyed to the ‘promised land’
(Exodus 3:17; 13:15). But this journey was not a short one that lasted a
day or few miles. To them the long road to freedom itself was a boundary. Along
with that there were several hurdles that they had to face. Dead Sea (Ex. 10), lack
of water (Numbers 20:2), lack of good water (Ex. 15:20-23), those tribes who
prevented them from passing through (Num. 20:17 ff.), fear of the Canaanites
(Num. 13:27 ff.) were some of the hurdles that had to be crossed over to reach
the ‘promised land’. St. Paul talks about the boundaries that are to be removed
or overcome in Christian life. He says that the last hurdle that should be
removed is death (1Cor. 15:26). Humans need to take these boundaries seriously
and should guard that are to be guarded and overcome that are to be overcome to
reach the ultimate goal.

Boundaries
that are to be kept

As said
earlier, some of the boundaries are to be overcome and some are to be kept
until the end. We read from the Bible that Jesus helped people to overcome
several boundaries in their lives during his incarnate life in this world.
Crippled body, withered hand, limping legs, fear of life, segregation, distance
from God and wrong understanding about various matters were some of them that
Jesus removed. At the same time He was eager to respect some of them. Though
Jesus had difference of opinion with Jewish leaders regarding the meaning of
Sabbath, he cared to observe it by attending Synagogue meetings on Sabbath days. He also respected the limitations regarding food. Though he was aware of the
need to eat, he was careful enough not to find food through unlawful means.

Those
who dishonor the boundaries.

Regretfully
we see humans from the very beginning itself dishonor the boundaries and make
the journey to the beyond difficult. The first act of this kind was the eating
of the fruit that Adam was asked not to eat. This act caused the alienation of
human from the realm of protection of God and from the helpful company of
nature. Those who did not respect the limits of time in their journey from
Egypt, had to go hungry in the desert (Ex. 16:26, 27).

To human
culture that has ‘come of age’, many of the boundaries of the old are not so
any more. Time, distance, lack of understanding, powers of nature,
many of the physical ailments etc. were some of the things that put limits in
life of humans earlier. But advancement in the field of science and technology
along with education has helped human to overcome several of these. It is a
fact that this overcoming of hurdles has helped us to enhance human culture, improve
living conditions and to strengthen mutual relationships. But it should be
noted that some of the boundaries that are to be kept and respected are also
being neglected or removed.

We today
taste the bitter fruit of our lack of readiness to respect the nature and its
special relationship with its creator. We coined the phrase ‘maximum exploitation
of natural resources’ and made it part of our culture. We wrote new chapters of
luxury and affluence with it and we consider them as ‘quite normal’ and essential life
style. But as a consequence we today are confronting the hard reality of
climate change and confused weather patterns. We have seen at-least two
destructive wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the recent years for fuel. We are
not sure how many more we may see in future. Social scientists predict that the
next world war would be for the control of water sources. These are due to our
lack of readiness to respect the boundaries in creation. While the number of
people who eat a lot is increasing, the number of people who do not have
anything to eat at all is also escalating. This will make the life of those who
have also difficult. We need to know that if we continue to go on like this
without guarding and respecting that is to be guarded and respected; our lives
will be in great danger. Our journey to total liberation will be made slow and
difficult if we continue to profess the mindless consumerists’ confusion
between need and greed.

The same
fate will be faced by us if we do not respect the boundaries of time. Those who
would consider time as only to work and to pile up wealth will fail to respect
the time to keep relationships strengthened and protection and comfort thereof.
In the distorted culture, we find it hard to set time to keep up with our
relationship with God and fellow beings. People skip worship and religious
activities due to ‘short of time’. Even when they make it to worship places, those
times do not become quality time because it is used to cater to selfish motives
and unhealthy practices. Family get-together is becoming really rare. There
used to be a past when relatives would gather together for every special
occasion and assist to make it maximum quality time with participation and
cooperation. But now we leave all that to the ‘event managers’ making even the household
a guest.  Due to ‘short of time’ we
convert the time for recreation and enjoyment a time to work and to make money.
Hence, recreation becomes mechanical and expensive. Instead of solving problems
we are creating more. Everything including family reunion and the joy of
fellowships also has become products in the market to be commercialized.
Unfortunately this does not lead us to salvation, but to suffering and condemnation.

We fail
to promote, practice and support better things that will help us take a
steady journey to salvation. Education and knowledge gained so much importance
in recent decades. But since ethical lessons that are to go with it were
lacking, we were not able to enjoy the fruit of learning well enough. Of course,
we got enough educated people, but we have none who knew how to use that for
the general welfare of the community. As a result no one, not even the
educated ones are able to use the benefits of education in a better way.
People got graduated in all practical lessons, but failed to love anything
except the knowledge they earned along with positions and power that came with
it. Even religious communities that are supposed to be the guardians of better qualities
became agencies and promoters of unhealthy tendencies because people who
control them were people of this breed. Instead of promoting love,
justice, fraternity and equality in the world, religions have became apostles of hatred, rivalry, power
craze and in-fight and thus creating new problems in the world.

Return
to the Garden.

What we
need is a return, return to the garden where there are boundaries of time, resources
and knowledge. Today we have, either destroyed or disregarded them to make
human life hell-like. In the garden though we had boundaries, we were not alone
and alienated. We had a perfect companion (Gen. 2:18 ff.), and also had God as
helper. But now human has ‘grown’ and has lost both the human companion and
help of God. We need to come back to respect the boundaries and to make our
journey to the world without boundaries easy and fast.

Conclusion

Some of
the boundaries are to be overcome. But some of them are helpful and inevitable
and hence to be guarded. We can walk to freedom only by respecting and guarding
them. Israel that traveled to the ‘promised land’ through the wilderness where
regular food was lacking and that itself not available on all days, reached the destination
by respecting the existing situation and the boundaries therein. Let us learn the obvious
lesson from them. Resources in nature are not to be consumed in our
generation, rather to be kept and to be passed on to the coming generations. Time
is not only for working hard and earning material wealth, but also to keep
relationships growing in quality and to learn better things in life. Let us be
guardians of the boundaries in creation that are to be respected and wait for
the fulfillment of the promises of our Lord when all boundaries shall be removed and we shall be ‘one with God’ and ‘one like God’