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The Kingdom power of loving outside the lines.

By Jimmy Rollins

A few years ago, our neighbors installed an invisible fence for their dog. The dog wasn’t big or dangerous, but he was full of energy and would often take off at a sprint down the street. The invisible boundary of the fence would send a shock to the dog’s collar whenever the dog would get too close to the property line. We watched as the natural exploratory impulse of this new family member was controlled and limited by what he could not see.

Life is full of boundaries—some seen, some unseen. Some spoken, some unspoken. Boundaries are essential when they are used to protect us; however, they can also hurt us. Boundaries harm us when they are used to keep us divided from one another and not unified, especially when they are unspoken or unseen boundaries. When its purpose is to keep us apart, it is then no longer just a boundary. It has become a stronghold that keeps us from experiencing the blessings of relationship that God has purposed for us.

A few years ago, I was sitting in a barbershop getting my hair cut. It was a regular day. We were all talking and laughing when a white man with a feathered haircut walked in. He thought he was just walking in to get a haircut, but he was crossing an invisible fence. This was “our” shop, and there was immediate tension when he walked in because of the color of his skin and the style of his hair. Shock and division paralyzed a once super-relaxed atmosphere. I felt it. We all felt it. I’m sure he felt it too.

But I also felt something else in that moment, something I’m not sure anyone else felt. I wanted to build a bridge in that moment. I’m not saying that the shock of the invisible fence disappeared, but the call to obedience became stronger than the shock of the moment. I felt the shock, but instead of it causing me to move backward, it alerted me to act. I started a conversation with the guy in that moment and helped bridge the worlds that had collided.

Living this life of obedience fuels passion for the kingdom and trust in God. Many times, what we label as “triggers” are God’s invitations for repentance and/or healing. Even as you are following Jesus beyond one fence, you might hit another. When someone says something to you that makes you want to put your invisible fence back up, or when you read a comment that brings up old feelings of fear or anger, you can take them as opportunities to heal and love outside your lines. 

Our goal in life with Jesus is not to be pain free. But because we naturally want that, our comfort can be an invisible fence. And yet following Jesus causes us to live in such a way that we can’t be so comfortable that we won’t confront. More times than not the person who needs the most confronting is us. 

Feeling disrupted, disappointed, angry or sad is a warning that an invisible fence is in front of you. Maybe the reason you got so frustrated with that person’s comment is because you have a fence up between you and them. Maybe you’ve already decided that you are on the right side of the fence, and they are on the wrong side of the fence, no matter what.

The great thing is there is a God on the other side of it who is ready to heal you and set you free! It is in these moments that we are invited to search our hearts to find out what is really bothering us. That person who said or did that thing was probably in the wrong, but they also revealed a fence in your heart that you need to repent of. When we repent and acknowledge what was wrong about that thing, that thought or that decision, we can start to change our thinking. 

It is going to cost you some comfort, and it might cost you some relationships. It is a narrow path and sometimes a lonely journey. I am not going to tell you that crossing invisible fences is a comfortable life filled with friends and people who agree with you. That’s a lie! You may be called a sellout.

Those insults, that shade being thrown at you, mean you are getting close to an invisible boundary. You may still feel fine, but those who are sending that shock are now uncomfortable. But if you want to love outside the lines, you have to keep going. You have to move forward knowing there is still a God on the other side of that fence inviting you to come over, and as you do, you are giving testimony to those who are insulting you out of their own pain that they can be healed too.

So what are the frustrations of today?

It depends on whose yard you are in. I sit in a painful place as a Black father in America. It’s almost daily that I get another report of a child tried as an adult and labeled “aggressive” because of the color of their skin. Another injustice. Another Black man dying or attacked. I sit in spaces where I am an invited guest in the company of people who will post racially insensitive things online, where I am tolerated because I can preach, but if they had never heard of me, and I was just a man walking in the door uninvited, I would not be treated as kindly.

I’ve been treated unjustly, I have had family members treated unjustly, and I hear the cries of the people around me, but I’m called to build a bridge. I am Ananias being told by God to pray for Saul over and over again. I am Ananias despite what the community around me says, despite what the media around me says. I must believe what God said about serving all people—that the gospel is for all people. I am responsible for all those I come across, not just the ones who look like me. Not only do I need to seek out Saul, I must put my hands on him and call him “brother.” I must live my life in a way that the Sauls of today have an opportunity to be a part of God’s family.

The same is true about you. You are a bridge builder who is called to cross over boundaries and invisible lines to bring people together. According to Scripture, we are citizens of heaven (see Philippians 3:20), meaning whatever agenda you have is secondary to the kingdom agenda because your citizenship trumps the color of your skin. Let God dig up any and all invisible fences in your life. Don’t ignore them—address them head on.

It’s time to dig up any stronghold in your life that is creating an invisible fence—any strong opinions, strong points of view or strong convictions that are counter to the commission of Christ. You may have opinions about all these things, but those opinions are secondary to the kingdom agenda. As followers of Jesus, let’s stop allowing invisible fences to separate us from the kingdom work we are called to.

What about you? This is going to take more than listening to a diversity message. It is going to take more than listening to a podcast or reading a book. There is a reason God created you how He created you and placed you where He placed you. He created you to break down barriers and love outside the lines!

This is your job, but you must make the choice to act. You much choose to be sold out every day. Are you ready to look at some things you may have aligned with in the past that you now see contradict God’s heart? Are you ready to face the rejection that may come? You may need to have some uncomfortable conversations.

Do you know what I learned about invisible dog fences? Dogs still get out. When the excitement or fear or whatever emotion they are feeling causes them to move fast, they bypass the shock and go beyond the fence. That’s when they realize the shock from their collar wasn’t really debilitating. It was an annoyance and could be ignored.

The kingdom of heaven has drawn near; God is calling us to move toward unity. But only those who are sold out and brave enough to move beyond their invisible fences will achieve unity. It is those who are sold out who make that leap because when you are sold out your win changes. It is not about staying in your safe yard anymore. It’s about passing that invisible boundary and following Jesus into the uttermost.

Taken from Love Outside the Lines by Jimmy Rollins. Copyright 2023 by Jimmy Rollins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Publishing (

This article was featured in the Spring 2023 AVAIL Journal.

Read the full AVAIL Journal Digital Edition →

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