One of the things that really annoyed the religious authorities, the Pharisees, in Jesus’ time was the fact that he didn’t just mix with the Jews, the people of God, the ‘church’ if you like. Pharisees themselves would have nothing to do with non ‘church’ people i.e. non-Jews, or those who were ‘unclean’ – lepers, tax collectors, those whom they considered ‘sinners’. Contrary to this attitude Jesus’ heart was open to all and he mixed with sinners of all types, the very ones who were excluded from the worshipping community, those not allowed into the synagogue (‘church’) services, and all this made the Pharisees furious.
A good example of Jesus’ open heart was the occasion when he spoke to the woman at the well in John 4. This was a shocking thing to the religious types. Firstly, she was a ‘woman’ (for Pharisees women didn’t rate!); secondly she was a Samaritan, the hated, despised, ‘unclean’ enemies of the Jews; thirdly she was an adulteress, having had numerous partners. This is an event in which, among other things, Jesus shows us that there are no bounds to God’s love. It therefore teaches us also that if we claim to be a Christian then there can be no bounds to our concern for others.
It comes as a great shock to some people that Jesus didn’t actually come to establish a new religion. Rather he came to establish a ‘new humanity’, a new community of the people of God, a community intimately in relationship with him that was to be his presence in the world, not one that hides behind the four walls of a church building. It is this vision, Jesus’ original vision, we need to reinvent ourselves to fulfill.
An ‘Unbounded Church’ is the incarnation of Christ, i.e. a body of people who display the active presence of Christ wherever it is set. It is ’unbounded’ because its boundaries can’t be discerned as it merges into and infiltrates the surrounding community, as yeast permeates a lump of dough and actively changes it.
If the church is to prosper in 21st Century Australia it is the ‘Unbounded Church’ without walls which is the way of the future, it is also the theological reflection of the nature and mission of God.