Peace Quaker Spice Two

We’ve got to become more conscious of boundries. But not just those that are terrestrial, international, industrial or electoral. I’m suggesting that just as potentially flammable are personal boundries. It is a big issue, I googled ‘respecting personal boundries’ and got 4, 330,000 hits in a third of a second. Most of the web sites I looked at were about how to establish and defend your personal space.



Quaker Spice Two – Peace


Deuteronomy 19:14 reads: Thou shall not move thy neighbor’s boundary stone…

Deuteronomy 27:17 reads: Cursed is the man who moves his neighbor’s boundary stone.  

Job 24:2 reads: Men move boundary stones; they pasture flocks they have stolen.

Proverbs 15:25 reads: The LORD tears down the proud man’s house but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.

Proverbs 22:28 reads: Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.

Hosea 5:10 reads: Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.


It might be of interest that the Jews weren’t all that interested in boundary stones until there had been a parceling out of the lands of promise. All of a sudden protecting what I consider to be mine – my property – became a big concern. Evidently the practice of moving the boundary stones of another had become a common enough occurrence that it was thought important enough to get a commandment all its own.


When in 1785 the U.S. Congress decided to sell off western lands to pay off the costs of the revolutionary war they replaced the metes and bounds approach to surveying with the Public Lands Survey System. And today we hire surveyors to, well, stake out property that we are buying or fencing.


Recently the CIA released a report on the hundreds of boundary disputes among nations—the disputes between Afghanistan and Pakistan made quite a long list. No wonder they are embroiled in conflict.    


The very idea of property has had to be expanded and new ways have had to be created to determine who owns what. You can’t watch a movie at home without being alerted to the fact that it doesn’t belong to you. We live with laws about “Intellectual property”, “Industrial property” and Copyrights. That number hand written on the inserts of music in our bulletin is one that as a Meeting we comply with laws respecting the property of another.


China’s new role as an economic giant is seen by many economist as unsustainable principally because the whole idea of private property is antithetical to a managed economy. Lawyers there end up in prison for championing property rights. A writer for the Federal Reserve of Dallas on Entrepreneurs and Economy says: “The most important incentives for entrepreneurs are private property rights and a competitive market system—the cornerstones of a prosperous, sound economy.” Property rights are a corner stone, a boundary stone if you please. You may find it contradictory to your image of the United States but the primary role of government has been and is the enforcement of property rights.


Boundaries are important. Due to population gains revealed by the latest federal census Washington was awarded a 10th congressional district. Last Sunday, with less than two hours to spare, members of the Redistricting Commission signed off on a plan that will reshape legislative and congressional maps of Washington state for the next decade.


But there are yet other kinds of boundaries that need to be observed. During the revolutionary war the Quaker whaling community of Nantucket suffered heavily from both sides for their neutrality. William Rotch had in a warehouse a consignment of bayonets taken from muskets which had come into his possession in payment of a debt. The Americans demanded them. Rotch denied the request and his life was threatened. He said he would gladly have beaten them into ‘pruning hooks’ but I took an early opportunity of throwing them into the sea.’ Called to publicly account for his action he testified: “As this instrument is purposely made and used for the destruction of mankind, I can put no weapon into a man’s hand to destroy another…” He said ‘I sunk them in the bottom of the sea, I did it from principle, I have ever been glad that I had done it, and if I am wrong I am to be pitied.” The chairman of the committee interviewing Rotch said “I believe Mr. Rotch has given us a candid account, and every man has a right to act consistently with his religious principles, but I am sorry that we could not have the bayonets, for we want them very much.” Rotch reported that one of the Committee observed in a pert manner ‘then your principles are passive Obedience and non-resistance’. He replied, ‘No, my friend, our principles are active Obedience or passive suffering.”


We’ve got to become more conscious of boundries. But not just those that are terrestrial, international, industrial or electoral. I’m suggesting that just as potentially flammable are personal boundries. It is a big issue, I googled ‘respecting personal boundries’ and got 4, 330,000 hits in a third of a second. Most of the web sites I looked at were about how to establish and defend your personal space.

Among “The Ten Laws of Boundaries” the authors Cloud and Townsend say we err when we rescue someone from suffering the consequences of their own actions. At times that’s hard not to intercede. Does that contradict your understanding of being Christian?


Taking that this a bit further, we each have a God given ability to take initiative. God won’t do my work for me– that would be an invasion of my boundaries. I’m going to fail and make mistakes, but at least I’m trying… Pecking its way out of its shell strengthens a baby bird allowing it to function in the world. If denied this task the baby bird will die. Problems and struggles are important. If God fixes everything we would never learn and grow.


They refer us to what Paul wrote in Romans 7: (vss 15;19;23) “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keeping doing…waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members (Romans 7:15,19,23). Paul acknowledges the truth about his own self. “God… help me to clarify my boundaries and to know what I have the power to overcome myself, and what I need to turn over to you and others for help. Help me to know what is me and what is not me.”


They say the our “boundaries need to be visible to others….” When our secret boundaries are violated we withdraw or resent or accuse another of irresponsibility rather than being honest. Unexpressed boundaries cause relationships to suffer because they will be communicated indirectly or through manipulation. We need to make sure people can see us clearly. Boundaries help us to be seen and heard. It’s like wearing one of those yellow safety suits with reflective tape. If we do not communicate our needs, desires, things we are uncomfortable with… we hide parts of ourselves in the darkness.

Setting boundaries leads to honesty, relief from guilt, and better communication of who you are and what you need. It sometimes requires confrontation and hurt feelings, but if we don’t do this anger and bitterness will set in because we are not being open about our own limits and needs.  We need to let others know what we love, what we want and what we intend.  That’s a whole lot better than being known for what we hate, what we don’t want what we will not do. 

If we want people to respect our boundaries, we must respect theirs. For some this is the hardest part, especially in families. Envy reveals that we have focused on what another has or has accomplished. Those things are outside of our boundaries. Such a focus can lead us to neglecting our own responsibilities. Comparing yourself to someone else never leads to growth. Taking inventory of our life and desires does.It also gives the other person permission to be honest as well.

So what does all this have to do with peace? Everything I think. Scriptural pacifists point to Jesus telling Peter to put down the sword he used to bludgeon the ear of the servant of the high priest. That was clearly a boundary violation. We could do a bit of a word study, look at the English, the Greek, even the Hebrew and discover what a huge concept is Peace. Shalom, in the liturgy and in the transcendent message of the Christian scriptures, means more than a state of mind, of being or of affairs. Completeness seems to be at the center of shalom. Shalom seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world. To say joy and peace, meaning a state of affairs where there is no dispute or war, does not begin to describe the sense of the term.


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