Summary: The Bible is our standard and is what defines our freedoms and boundaries. It is important to spend generous amounts of time in the word in order to grow in knowing God and how God want us to serve him
In a conversation, someone posed an interesting and much needed question to me. "Is it wise to think outside of the box?" There are many, including myself, who have used this phrase. Wisdom would seem to dictate that this, like many other things, should have a caveat to it. Many things pressed to the extreme can be self-defeating and have just the opposite effect we desire. As I reflect on this question, I am not thinking of things such as science, medicine, and technology. We all can readily see the great progress and improvements we have had in these areas due to "outside the box" thinking. Of course, there are some serious caveats, such as the issues associated with cloning, abortion, and other things that "outside the box" thinking has brought. There still has to be some sort of limitation when you go outside the box, especially in the area of ethics. But this is not what I am thinking about.
I am thinking about our faith in God as we live it out in our daily life. Is it wise to "think outside the box" as it relates to my faith? As I reflect on this, I need to back up and ask myself the question, "What does this phrase mean?" The idea of a "box" suggests limitation. Limitation is not inherently a bad thing. God placed bounds on the sea so that it would not inundate the dry land. This is a limitation that is a blessing to us land-lovers. God also set a boundary between night and day. Without this limitation, our world would either freeze to death or burn up. God gave the Torah to his people, which also had limitations. It would be similar to putting a fence around the yard to keep the children from wandering out into traffic. Keeping the Torah was a limitation that God gave for the good of his people. God has limited even our life span. In the beginning, it appears that humans lived nearly a thousand years. During that time, the world became very wicked, and God was grieved about what had happened to man. Imagine the amount of knowledge, wisdom, and technical expertise you could amass if you could live that long! Since sin had corrupted mankind, imagine the amount of godless pride you could also amass as well! God decided to limit man's years. Though the text does not say whether this was a punishment or gift, this limitation can be seen as a blessing by limiting the amount of pride we could amass in a lifetime. So, a box is not inherently a bad thing.
On the other had, a box is not inherently a good thing either. If the box means falling short of God's will, it is actually a bad thing. Those who think outside of the box cast off whatever falls short of God's will. Some examples include people like Hezekiah who did not accept the status quo and enacted reforms in order to be more faithful to Yahweh. He broke down the high places, which had been around for so long, the people accepted them as a part of life. He also destroyed the bronze serpent that God had instructed Moses to build because Israel began to venerate it and burn incense to it. Then there was Josiah, who also enacted reforms that not only included destroying the high places, but also destroyed the first shrine that Jereboam ben Nebat had built at the beginning of his reign 300 years earlier. He even went so far as disinterring the graves associated with the high places and burning the bones on their altars in order to defile them. This was definitely "outside of the box." For the Jews, especially the Pharisees, Jesus himself was way outside of the box. His actions on the Sabbath, his revolutionary teachings about the nature of greatness, mercy, and justice were all outside of the box. The inclusion of the Gentiles into the Kingdom was way outside the box for many Jews, including Peter the Apostle. He had a lot of trouble with accepting this to be the new norm. Throughout history, there have been others who have went outside the box, such as John Wycliff, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Menno Simons, John Wesley, Alexander Campbell and Pardee Butler. Going outside of the box resulted in death threats for people like these. One translated the Bible into a language all people would be able to read and not just those with advanced degrees and training. Another was very innovative and used the printing press to distribute scriptures to the common man. One was a professor of theology that dared to question the doctrines, practices, and beliefs of the church. Another taught that as God's people, we are not of the world; therefore there is no such thing as a "state church." God's people are citizens of Heaven. 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 to those acceptable classes of people who attended. Another taught that we should discard all creeds because they tend to be divisive, and that our only authority should be the word of God, and that all who claim to be Christians should unite rather than divide into various sects. Then there were those who made moves to abolish slavery, speaking out against those brethren who waffled on the issue and those who supported slavery. Many brethren not only accepted, but actively promoted slavery. For many Americans, including Christians, the rejecting of slavery was most definitely outside of the box. These ideas were revolutionary. They were outside the box. So, a box is not inherently a good thing either.