Typically, I abstain from any New Year’s resolutions. I hate diets and everything they stand for. I loathe the notion that December 31st is distinctly different from January 1st.  And “self betterment” always seems to end in a profound feeling of “self worse-er-ment” for me.

But not this year. This year I have decided to give up something useless. This year I am giving up boundaries. You heard me. I am hereby planning on a boundary-less 2019.

I grew up in the 1990s. Which means that I have owned and lost at least 422 W.W.J.D. bracelets. And I am still nothing like Jesus. But, I have noticed a character flaw of his that I think is worth examining and imitating: Jesus was really bad at boundaries.

Stay with me.

If the incarnation is evidence of anything, it is that he led a boundary-less life from the very beginning. Joseph was called into giving up all sense of cultural boundaries by marrying a woman already with child. Geographical border crossing was a mandate of the birth of the Messiah. The shepherds and the royalty came to see him. If Jesus had ever sat in on a session of psychotherapy, I am certain his analyst would have told him that his origin story was dysfunctional at best and that he perhaps “needed better boundaries.”

Further, the people who always seemed to be on Jesus’ S-List were the Pharisees. And those folks lived and breathed boundaries. They were all, “No healing on the Sabbath!” And Jesus was all, “You look sick; I brought some healing.” And the Pharisees insisted, “No working on the Sabbath!” And Jesus was like, “These people seem hungry; I brought some food.”

Jesus is like your boundary-less great aunt at a funeral reception. It may be weird that she pulled out a Kleenex to wipe the snot off of your nose and also fed your toddler chicken livers from a Mississippi gas station that she picked up on the way. But you’ve been crying a great deal, and your kid thinks that these are the best chicken nuggets she’s ever had.

And nothing made the Pharisees angrier than Great Aunt Boundary-less Jesus. Because he took their boundary ridden law and raised it to completion in himself. He both ignored the boundaries and finished them. The failure to adhere to boundaries was no longer useful, because Jesus had come to be the Boundary. And mercifully, he had decided to let everyone through, no matter what.

If Jesus failed at anything, it was creating and sticking to firm boundaries. He partied with sinners. On repeat. He headed to the tax collector’s house for a meal and enjoyed the fruits of that gentlemen’s oppressive occupation. And as he hung on the cross, dying, Jesus called out to a criminal that he would haul his ass into heaven too. So even the gates of heaven appear to be without boundary. Imagine that.

By and large, I believe boundaries to be utterly useless, at least when it comes to the Gospel. I am not an idiot. I understand that there are people we need boundaries with. Abusive family members, angry people on the internet, and (maybe) even addicts. Boundaries in and of themselves are not bad. But as is her usual tendency, the Church takes a self-help concept and makes a gnostic gospel out of it.

The worst use of boundaries comes from the mouths of the pastors and priests of the church. All too often a “boundary” is insisted upon when the people in the pews are struggling with loneliness or mental illness or are simply annoying. But we label them as difficult and relegate them to the gnashing of teeth beyond our magically “self-actualized” boundary.

And woe be it unto the parishioner who has been labeled evil or even demonic for the sake of creating a hedge grove of shunning. But the hard truth is that people are not automatically evil if they get in the way of ministry. They are just people being very people-y. We would do well to remember that Jesus might have been able to cast out demons, but he had dinner with “difficult people” on the regular. And he loved them. Just as they were.

Of course, I am not certain that this insistence upon boundaries in the church is sheerly the fault of ordained people. I heard the word “boundary” used in seminary at least as much as I heard the name of Jesus invoked. Also worth noting, you would be hard pressed to find many seminary professors who have run churches for any length of time. They do not know (or perhaps remember) that these are real people we are categorizing. They are not solely their sins. They are not their only their obnoxious tendencies. They are people marked beloved by God whether we like it or not.

In numerous parts of my life, I am unsure of What Jesus Would Do. But I do know what he has done. He was the great Boundary Crosser, the finisher of all of the boundaries we place around one another, and the Rescuer who crosses all of the practical and personal boundaries to get that one difficult sheep back into the fold.

So this 2019, I am living my #bestboundarylesslifenow. I am doing it in the grocery store, in the aisles of my church, and I am even thinking about trying it out at the DMV.  I am going to hug people more. And I am not a hugger. I am going to listen to people more. Especially the difficult people. And by God’s Grace I will remind myself that I am one of them. And that Christ Jesus crossed heaven and earth to save me.