Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: and it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring.
Numbers 15:38-39 AKJV
Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.
Deuteronomy 22:12 AKJV
And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
Matthew 14:36 AKJV
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.
Matthew 23:5 AKJV
Very late in my life a much younger friend, someone who was going through the ‘discovery years’ of early adulthood, pointed out to me that, like himself, I am not a ‘mainstream’ Christian. After much reflection, it seems to me that he might’ve told me that I am not a mainstream person. There is something in me that makes me not want to find myself lost in a big crowd, hemmed in by hundreds of miles of flat farmland, or living in a house plopped down the middle of a densely packed city block.
I have always stayed on the sidelines at a party, left the Midwest prairies behind and moved to the edges of my country, the West Coast, and I’ve almost always lived in a house on a corner lot. Something about me makes me feel more secure if I am positioned as in a lookout tower. I like to see who or what is coming or going. It’s not so much about control or safety, though. I think it’s just that I want to be in the best possible position to see and hear, and then, to act in the most unhindered way.
Looking back, I see that this is a trait or characteristic inherited from my ancestors, as far back as I know them. It looks like being a loner, and maybe it is, but it’s coupled with an insatiable desire to be with other people. What an enigma! All of this is the raw material of my human nature which God is using to tame me and train me to become a being like Himself, one who wants to, and can, live forever. Though His plan of salvation is customized to each soul He creates, it works the same for everyone.
It used to bother me, in fact for most of my life it bothered me, that I was the last person to get picked when a team was being assembled in phys ed at school, or that I rarely got past a first friendly hello at coffee hour at my local church before being gracefully ditched. When you’re young, you just chalk it up to being unpopular. When you’ve seen the pattern, you know that it must be more than that. People are interested in themselves, for the most part, and in those whom they can impress and ultimately use.
We live in a society which tells us that being marginalized is a bad thing, and so it tries to encourage us, by reasoning or by bullying, to join the crowd and find happiness and fulfillment there. This social conditioning affects us whether we want it to or not, and so we must be vigilant in remembering the truth, first the truth that is in the gospel, and second, the truth that is in us. If you find yourself one of those who lives ‘at the edge,’ then don’t fight it. God could have made you different if He wanted.
Our task in this life, another way to say it is ‘working out our salvation,’ in synergy, cooperation, with God, is to harmonize our individual truth, who we are, with the Truth, who He is. This we cannot do alone, but only with His help, since He alone knows what He has in mind for us. If you are a Christian and you find yourself always on the fringe of the undivided robe of Christ, which is the Church, then this is the place into which you have been woven in the heavenly garment. You are there for a reason.
Like the fringes—actually what we would today call ‘tassles’—on the prayer shawl of the people of Israel, we are there for a sign and a remembrancer, ‘a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring.’ Those in the Church who, like us, are ‘seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’ amidst the great crowd of worshippers, are looking for us.
That’s why we are there, even though we may be an enigma to them as well as to ourselves. Like the fringes, the tassles woven into the prayer shawl at its four corners, we represent the four limbs of ‘the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world,’ whose fleece covers the sons of Adam while they are living in this world outside the garden. And without our knowledge—though not without Christ’s—many of those who are ill, touching us as the people touched the fringe of His garment, are healed.
But there lurks a danger in the fringes. Not being in the mainstream, in the world or in the Church, is (as many in the Church warn us) fraught with dangers. Without going into these dangers, many of which are imaginary, there is only one danger that gives birth to all the others and deals death to the soul. It is, of course, pride, expressed as a feeling of superiority, of being one of the elect, one of ‘the seven thousand men who have not bent the knee to baal.’ As Christ says, ‘all their works they do for to be seen of men.’
This is really the only danger that confronts any of us—not the world, the flesh, or the devil can do much worse with our souls than this—that everything we have, do, are or appear to be is ‘for to be seen of men.’ Whether we are lost in the broad fabric of society because we fit in so well, or whether we are hanging on, there at the fringes, it is the same. Now that we have that out of the way, brothers, let’s just be willing to be who we are, as the Lord made us, and leave the outcome to Him, to whom alone be all glory, now, and in the world to come.