Dr. Richard C. Lamb: 'On the Boundary'
Paul Tillich, an eminent theologian, spoke memorably of "life on the boundary." He was forced to leave Germany prior to World War II because of his views. He came to the Untied States and taught at Union Seminary in New York, the University of Chicago and Harvard University.
Tillich was aware of how easy it is to be satisfied with where we are in knowledge or in service to God and human life. It is so with people in religion. Many are inclined to "stand pat" with their attendance at a religious function and to support a religious community that thinks like they do. One wonders if we can break the habit of touching bases with the "same old, same old," or whether, by the grace of God, we can cross the boundaries that seem so fixed.
Sometimes a good "forgettery" can be helpful. The Apostle Paul came into the early church with a lot of baggage. He was a Pharisee, a persecutor of early Christians. Later he became a believer, but if he was going to make a good contribution to the Christian faith, both he and the early church would have to move forward, not allowing the past to be a burden. It became so important in Paul's thought that he wrote, "Forgetting the things that lie behind, I press on." (Philippians 3:13) This is good counsel for all of us if we are to move across boundaries that separate us.
One biblical parable gives us insight as it speaks of a sower who scattered seed not only on good soil but on rocky and thorny ground, as well. (Matthew 13:3-9) Even though he got no result from the rocky and thorny ground, he kept moving on until he realized a good crop.
It is so easy to absolutize our views, or to slip into a pattern of living that we find comfortable. Live and let live! That reminded me of a song popularized by Bing Crosby:
You've got to accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative,
And don't mess with Mr. In-Between!
Good religion does not emphasize standing pat.
In an increasingly materialistic and secular world, it is important to remember that God's love abides and ours should, as well, as we cross the boundary of the old year into the new.
And one thing more. The Psalmist said to God with thanksgiving a word that has always touched my heart. Claiming little and perhaps having little to give, as he saw it, he wrote, "You have given me an open ear." (Psalm 40:6) May we all receive that gift as we cross the boundary into a new year.
Dr. Lamb is parish associate at First Presbyterian Church, Charleston.