Thinking Outside the Box
John Telgren

In a conversation, someone posed an interesting and much needed question to me. "Is it wise to think outside of the box?" When it comes to our faith, I need to back up and ask myself the question, "What does this phrase mean?" "Box" suggests limitation, which is not inherently a bad thing. When God gave the Torah to his people, it contained some limitations. It would be similar to putting a fence around the yard to keep the children from wandering out into traffic. God gave it for the good of his people.

On the other had, a box is not inherently a good thing if it means falling short of God's will. Some examples include people like Josiah who did not accept the status quo and broke down the high places that had been around for so long, the people accepted them as a part of life. He even dug up the graves associated with the high places and burned the bones on their altars. This was definitely "outside of the box." For many Jews, Jesus himself was way outside of the box. His actions on the Sabbath, his revolutionary teachings about the nature of greatness, mercy, justice, and inclusion of the Gentiles were all outside of the box. Throughout history, there have been others who have gone outside the box, which often resulted in death threats. One translated the Bible into a language all people could read and not just clergy. Another was innovative and used the printing press to distribute scriptures to the common man. Another taught that as God's people, we are not of the world, but are citizens of Heaven; therefore there is no such thing as a "state church." One decided to preach the Gospel outside in the open air to the lowliest classes of people who did not attend a Cathedral, and then enrolled them in classes dealing with holy living after their conversion. Before this, preaching was confined to the cathedral. Another taught that we should discard all creeds because they tend to be divisive, and use the Bible as our only authority on which to unite as one. There were those who made moves to abolish slavery, speaking out against those brethren who waffled on the issue or who supported slavery. For many Americans, including our own Christian brethren, the rejection of slavery was most definitely outside of the box. So, a box is not inherently a good thing either.

It occurs to me as I think about our "box," the question should not merely be one of whether we are thinking inside or outside the box, but what is the standard for the box? Like a toolbox that has specific shadowed places for specific tools, God has shadowed our "box," letting us know what should be in it and what should not. Without a standard, it merely becomes a subjective enterprise - "My box is better than your box." The question should not merely be whether we think and operate in the box our outside the box, but what is the standard? Going with the standard may mean going "outside the box." From God's perspective, our going "outside the box" may actually be getting back in the box.

(Abridged from 7 Pillar's Blog: )