Living for God – without limits
In 2015, The Salvation Army worldwide will be holding a special five-day celebration in London to mark 150 years since its founding by William Booth. The theme is ‘Boundless’, a word and message that has recurred throughout the Army’s history – perhaps most famously in Booth’s hymn ‘O Boundless Salvation’.
ALOVE, The Salvation Army’s national youth programme, chose Boundless as its theme for 2012 and described it as:
“… “having no boundaries” or “without limits”. It’s a powerful word that releases people from oppression, grants freedom and opens the doors to new and exciting ways of doing things. It’s also a scary word. A world without boundaries can seem like chaos to people. We recognise the need for a framework of living but we reject the needlessness of boundaries that stop creativity, that slow down movement and hamper mission.” ALOVE cell material (January 2012)
The idea of my faith having no bounds is something I’ve thought a lot about. I think I’m reluctant to tell people what I believe because I don’t like lots of the connotations that the ‘Christian’ label has. On television Christians are portrayed as a bit weird, blindly following an out-of-date philosophy which most people have dismissed as false. Those ideas don’t match up with what I believe. To me, God is a powerful, living, ever-present being who is capable of more than I can understand. Whilst I don’t hide my faith – if people ask, I usually tell them – I don’t often tell people straight out that I have a faith in God, because I don’t want them to view me through that ‘Christian’ label first and foremost. I’m far more likely to tell them when I’ve known them for a while.
I’ve come to realise, though, that if I truly believe what I claim to then it doesn’t really matter if others ultimately reject me for my Christian beliefs. Jesus says:
“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22.
So according to Jesus, my concerns about how I people view me do not matter. Jesus understood what it can be like to be upfront about your belief in him but says that the important thing is to keep strong in proclaiming it – and that our reward will come because of it.
I also think that instead of using the image of Christianity as an ‘excuse’ for not talking about how I feel, I should constantly challenge it. I find that people who know of my faith are naturally curious about it, often finding that they talk about their ‘stereotypes’ of religion – allowing me to present my own take on it in a very natural, genuine way. They find it surprising that as a church we have things like a student meal and even that I don’t really attend out of a sense of ‘duty’ (for the most part) but because I like finding out more about God and how it applies to my life.
So how does the word ‘boundless’ come into it? ALOVE gives the following as their mission statement: ‘going into the world to find Jesus and point him out’. Recently, I have tried to forget the boundaries I have constructed for myself… that somehow, church and home lives are separate. Church is a place and a community, but my faith in God should be central to my life. It’s about more than just talking about it – it’s living it. That way, it won’t be much of a surprise if people come to know that you’re a Christian. That way, you can slowly challenge the stereotypes and transform people’s views of our religion. I don’t necessarily have to announce I’m a Christian – my aim is to make it clear, somehow. I don’t have to preach to people, to act like I’m somehow better than them – I should humble myself and realise that my God is bigger than any of my worries about what people think.
“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.” 1 Chronicles 4:10.