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Some thoughts about walls

Posted by on May 28, 2013 in discipleship | 13 comments

Some thoughts about walls

I’m writing an article about “walls.” No, not this article. Another article.

But, thinking about “walls” for that other article led me to write this article about thinking about walls. Confused yet?

Well, anyway, think about walls. What kind of wall? Any kind of wall. Every kind of wall.

We build walls; we tear down walls; we repair walls. We build doors to go through walls. Then, we lock the doors so that we can’t go through the walls.

Walls divide and define. They keep some in, and they keep others out. They offer protection, but also block the way to protection.

On their own, walls are neither good nor evil; they are completely neutral. Obviously, walls can be built for good or evil purposes. And, those purposes can change. But, the walls themselves remain neutral.

They are just walls.

What do walls mean for us as followers of Jesus Christ?

Well, that depends.

If people are inside the walls, then we should go inside the walls.

If people are outside the walls, then we should go outside the walls.

If people are both inside and outside the walls, then we should be both inside and outside the walls.

Why? Because God loves people, and God sends us to people… whether they are inside walls or outside walls.

Walls are just walls. But, people? Well, that’s a completely different story.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-28-2013


    A few years ago, Henry Cloud & John Townsend had a smash hit book in the Christian market called Boundaries. Everywhere I went, people were quoting from this book. Everyone talked about the need for boundaries in ministry, how to say no to people, how to protect “your” space from intrusion by others, and how to keep one’s ego safe.

    Except I can’t find any evidence for that kind of “wall” in the Bible.

    Wall out the devil, yes, but realize that other kinds of wall-building tends to wall us off from people, who should not be walled out. In most cases, it is the Christian’s responsibility to tear down walls not erect them.

    And yet the wall-building seems to get worse as people talk about the need to preserve their ego boundaries and deal with difficult people. As if each of us is not difficult in his/her own way. 😉

    Thank God Jesus was not a wall-builder. If anything, He was fantastic at tearing down curtains. 😉

  2. 5-28-2013

    After 20 years, still one of my favorite books: Church Without Walls by Jim Peterson of the Navigators.

  3. 5-28-2013

    1 Cor. 16: 8, 9 “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

    Acts 14:27 “And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”

    Acts 16:6-10 “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us. And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

    Interesting post, and it made me think of how the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit directs us through opening, as well as closing, doors.

  4. 5-28-2013


    Yes, this is key: “wall-building tends to wall us off from people.” That’s true of walls that we build, and it’s true of walls that other people build. We must be willing and ready to go both inside walls and outside walls… wherever the people are.


    I like that book very much also. I’ve written about it a couple of times, and even named it “best book of the year” the year that I first read it.


    Oh yes, God can always open a door or close a door. The question that I have to ask myself is this: if God opens a door through a wall, am I willing to walk through it? (Whether I’m walking through the door into the walls or outside the walls…)


  5. 5-28-2013

    Another Alan, Alan Hirsch, points out that we place a fence (or a wall) around ‘church’ and our dualist thinking leads us to see those outside and those inside differently (bounded set).

    What we really need is to understand that church is a centred set. There is no boundary, people are closer to or further from the centre who is, of course, Jesus.

    Instead of trying to get people to ‘come inside’ we do better to encourage people to draw closer to the centre.

  6. 5-28-2013

    Just to throw it out there….

    I didn’t get at all the same message from that book, Boundaries that DLE mentioned. To me it wasn’t about putting up walls…. but instead, making sure we aren’t bulldozing other people’s walls down in our quest for relationships, reconciliation…

    instead of bulldozing – we ought to give people the freedom and respect to open up their doors (lives) to us in their own time.

    Another take away from that book, which was a great positive impact in my life, was to take a long term view of relationships – to allow people to grow & change in their own time…to give them their own personal boundaries instead of wanting them to stay in the boundaries the Lord had given *me*.

    Another takeaway was to not be entangled in all kinds of unhealthy codependent relationships…..

    SO THAT we can have interdependent, healthy, pure love – relationships.

    Of course people mis use the truth in there.. for their own selfish reasons of comfort…. but that wasn’t what I took away from it at all.

  7. 5-28-2013


    But that’s the very problem with the book. What walls does a Christians ever have? What walls should we expect and protect?

    What do walls have to do with dying to self? If you’re dead to self, how is it that you have any walls that should resist people who want to bulldoze them?

    Whenever I hear Boundaries quoted by people it is ALWAYS in the context of a Christian person trying to resist “difficult” people by asserting his/her boundaries and not letting that difficult person cross them.

    I just can’t see any evidence for that in the Scriptures. Yes, Jesus would withdraw from time to time to recharge with the Father, but He didn’t assert His boundaries. If He had, there would have been no Church.

  8. 5-29-2013

    Oh wow, this is such a deeper and longer subject we can probably even touch here. I processed through a lot of this in the recent “love” series on here.

    I understand that many people misuse the book’s teaching and simply use it for protection from annoying people…or to keep people away that they simply feel incapable of “dealing with”…. or they just don’t “like”.

    But despite the ungodly use of “boundaries”…. I wholeheartedly believe in boundaries – because of the brokenness of the world we live in and the different paces we grow at. Sure, the goal is full reconciliation and dying to self…and we have all we need to love right now and we should all be able to love perfectly…but to get there – it isn’t always a straight path where everybody is ready for the same amount of raw openness & vulnerability & love than others around them.

    Another part of having healthy boundaries is knowing when to share and open up to others… and when to wait. I have continually learned this lesson in my real life and I believe the Lord is helping me not throw my pearls to pigs more and more. Have boundaries in who I open up to and how much…. an important lesson for my personality that would literally share everything and all things to anybody. Which I have come to find out is never a good or healthy thing.. for anybody.

    Most (all?) healthy God focused relationships, because of how broken and different each of us and how many past wounds each of us have in past relationships, take a long long looong time to build. Jesus shows this by how much time He spent with His 2 or 3 closest.

    Boundaries is simply building that relationship at a healthy pace and giving people the freedom and grace to be where they are and we will meet them where they are…instead of trying to force them to be healthier, better, more ready, more willing, more open…..only when there is healthy boundaries of giving people the freedom to grow at their OWN pace can we both finally grow together.

    Another aspect of this…is the truth that without people understanding boundaries…. some personalities will easily allow a man (their pastor) become the role the Holy Spirit is supposed to be for them. They will look to that person for all instruction, guidance, knowledge.

    Boundaries encourages us to realize that the Holy Spirit sets the boundaries for us. And the only other role in this life (I believe) where another person sets the ‘boundaries’ for another is a parent to a child….. and when the Holy Spirit takes over that, the parent steps out (hopefully too).

    When we try to be the Holy Spirit for others….. that is a prime example of us not having healthy boundaries! When somebody allows it… then neither have healthy boundaries.

    It’s not about walls… it’s about relationships in proper place (under the Lord) time and way.

    The Lord is the ultimate example of this freedom and respecting of who we are… never forcing us into relationship with Him or forcing us into anything….. He is so patient and He allows us to come to Him and surrender to Him and choose to die to self…. but it takes a lifetime…. and He is willing to wait.

    Do you know anything about codependent unhealthy relationships? if you were in the church system, you probably do….If you have ever been in one, you will know how important it is to have boundaries so not to enable people to run all over others… and for your own spiritual emotional health.

    It isn’t walls. Check out the book (not just people who quote the book!) through the proper scriptural lens – it may surprise you!! Thanks for listening! 🙂

  9. 5-29-2013

    I’m very conscious of walls as I lay out plans to subdivide a space into apartments…walls give privacy and, done right, block noise…not sure of the spiritual significance of that fact!

    Also, don’t forget firewalls…both physical and electronic…again, not sure of the spiritual significance but I’m sure a preacher could take off in some direction with that!

    Boundaries…”good fences make good neighbors”…are necessary for health. It isn’t so much to keep people out as to not allow them to take charge and override what the Holy Spirit may be saying in your life.

  10. 6-1-2013

    We build walls, literally. We put up a building, have a weekly gathering of people there and tell them to bring more people in. Instead of spending time on the other side of these walls, we are only expected to invited people to come over on our side of these walls.

    Maybe it’s me, but something seems a bit incomplete about this.

  11. 6-2-2013


    You said, “our dualist thinking leads us to see those outside and those inside differently (bounded set).” Yes, exactly. In reality, we are one with any who are in Christ, and no walls (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, other) can separate us.

    Randi, Dan, and Tom,

    I enjoyed your discussion of boundaries. I struggle with the idea of boundaries, and I see that in all of your comments as well. I know that I can set “good boundaries” which end up being not so good.


    Some of us go outside those walls, and again allow those same walls to separate us (but from the other side of the walls).


  12. 6-3-2013

    it IS such a fine line. I struggle with it too.

    I think my takeaway from this is that it’s just like everything else in our journey….

    * We must be Spirit lead….because there isn’t a formula that works in all situations. Each has different wounds, heart things going on, discernment. So nobody can really tell you other than the Lord what to do each scenario. Hopefully your close Church family can give you insight, advice, truthful encouragement because they know you and most of the full story of what’s going on…. but ultimately it’s between you and the Lord.
    * I trust that when I say “no” the Lord won’t give up on me if it’s something He really desires of me. I do believe thoughts like this: “if I don’t do this, I will ruin it (them, this situation)”…. “it’s now or never”…. “it’s all depending on you helping right now, you HAVE to”….. are not from the Lord and I find that when it’s those thoughts I’m dwelling on, I would act out of compulsion and not love…. and therefore I’m not being Spirit lead.

    * Instead, I believe He wants us to say YES when we understand it’s for Him, from Him and not dependent on us. I do believe He gives us plenty of chances to say “yes”. It’s not now or never. and it’s never dependent on me.

    *and finally.. often I will say “no”… but I have to keep my heart open, because later, when the reason I said “no” changes… I can reach out and say “yes” and I love being able to give that unexpected blessing. But if I had closed my heart forever when I felt a NO…I would miss so many opportunities. No doesn’t mean no forever. No doesn’t mean shut that person out forever. It means, this timing isn’t right for this right now.

  13. 6-4-2013


    We trust God to say “Yes” and we trust God to say “No” and we trust God to convince us to change our minds if needed. 🙂