Borders

“And he has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26).
I have a picture of three young Bengali men standing beside a concrete pillar at the side of a road in northwestern Bangladesh. Two of them are in Bangladesh, but the other is standing in India. The pillar is a border marker, establishing the boundary between the two countries.
In one sense, the border is entirely artificial. There is no geographic feature indicating significant differences between the land on opposite sides of the line. The line itself is mostly imaginary, consisting of a series of similar pillars several hundred meters apart stretching into the distance. Yet in other ways the border is real and highly significant. The short distance from one side to the other changes ones status from citizen (or legal visitor) to illegal alien. Forms of government change, as does rate of taxation, laws to be observed, and, in this case, official religion.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am basically in favor of borders. People choose to live in different circumstances, according to differing laws and economic systems and with greatly differing mores and customs. Borders allow that, and provide for many situations to be dealt with that one system might have difficulty achieving. Beyond that, however, I support borders (and national identities) because the Bible teaches that they are approved and appointed by God himself. He chose to create a world in which we are not all the same. He gave us ethnic identities, languages, and nations to maintain our distinctiveness in some aspects. We accept his will and his gifts of these things.
Having said that, I also can be thankful that God has also given us a spiritual kingdom without borders. “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). In the church we are all one, reconciled by the blood of Jesus. Neither racial, ethnic, national, nor class distinctions matter in the eyes of God. And our love for one another must also transcend all these. The same is true of differences in age, gender, educational status, or role in the Kingdom. “Christ is all, and is in all.”
It is a basic theological and Biblical principle that God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11; Acts 10:34,35). In the last of these verses, Peter specifically notes, “… in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him.” Borders achieve God’s will in the material or secular realm, but they have no place in the Kingdom of his Son. When it comes to fellowship with our creator and our savior, we are all exactly the same. Likewise, when it comes to our responsibility to love and serve our neighbor, every nation and tongue is included. We preach the Gospel to the whole world. We minister to the needy, whoever and wherever they may be. We practice mercy, forgiveness, and love to all. There can be no exceptions, for Jesus made no exceptions in his ministry to mankind. “And he himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Just as he died for all, so we must live in his name towards all (Ephesians 4:32). Borders indeed have their place, but not in the spiritual realm, where Christ’s kingdom is universal and is the same everywhere, for everyone.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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