The concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. God defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and He is responsible for himself. He defines and takes responsibility for his nature by telling us what He thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes.
He also defines Himself as separate from his Creation and from us. He differentiates himself from others. He tells us who He is and who He is not. For example, he says that He is love and that He is not darkness.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (1 John 4:16 NIV)
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5 NIV)
God also limits what He will allow in his yard. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behavior. He guards his house and will not allow evil things to go on there. He invites people in who will love him, and he lets love flow outward to them at the same time. The “gates” to his boundaries open and close appropriately.
EXAMPLES OF BOUNDARIES
Boundaries are anything that helps to differentiate you from someone else, or shows where you begin and end. Here are some examples of boundaries:
In the physical world a fence or some other kind of structure usually delineates a boundary. In the spiritual world, fences are invisible. Nevertheless, you can create good protective fences with your words.
The most basic boundary-setting word is NO. It lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you. Being clear about your NO and your YES is a theme that runs throughout the Bible.
All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37 NIV)
Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned. (James 5:12 NIV)
Knowing the truth about God and his property puts limits on you and shows you his boundaries. Realizing the truth of his unchangeable reality helps you to define yourself in relation to Him. When He says that “you will reap what you sow,” (Gal 6:7), you either define yourself in relation to that reality, or continue to get injured if you try to go against it. There is safety in the truth, whether it be knowing God’s truth or knowing the truth about yourself.
3. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTANCE
Proverbs 22:3 says that “the prudent man sees the evil and hides himself.” Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries. You can do this to replentish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually after you have given to your limit, as Jesus often did.
Taking time off from a person, or a project, can be a way of regaining ownership over some out-of-control aspect of your life where boundaries need to be set.
5. EMOTIONAL DISTANCE
Emotional distance is a temporary boundary to give your heart the space it need to be safe; it is never a permanent way of living. People who have been in abusive relationships need to find a safe place to begin to “thaw out” emotionally. Sometimes in abusive marriages the abused spouse needs to keep emotionally distant until the abusive partner begins to face his/her problems and become trustworthy.
You should not continue to set yourself up for hurt and disappointment. If you have been in an abusive relationship, you should wait until it is safe and real patterns of change have been demonstrated before you go back. Many people are too quick to trust someone in the name of forgiveness and not make sure that the other is producing “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8)
6. OTHER PEOPLE
You need to depend on others to help you set and keep boundaries. People subject to another person’s addictions, control, or abuse are finding that after years and years of “loving too much,” they can find the ability to create boundaries only through a support group. Their support system is giving them the strength to say NO to the abuse and control for the first time in their lives.
Trespassing on other people’s property carries consequences. “No Trespassing” signs usually carry a threat of prosecution if someone steps over the boundaries. The Bible teaches this principle over and over, saying that if we walk one way, this will happen, and if we walk another way, something else will happen.
Just as the Bible sets consequences for certain behaviors, we need to back up our boundaries with consequences. How many marriages could have been saved if one spouse had followed through with the threat of “if you don’t stop drinking, (or coming home at midnight, or hitting me, or yelling at the kids), I will leave until you get some treatment!” Or how many young adults’ lives would have been turned around if their parents had followed through with their threat of “no more money if you quit another job without having further employment” or “no bed if you continue to smoke marijuana in my house.”
Consequences give some good “barbs” to fences. They let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves. This teaches them that our commitment to living according to helpful values is something we hold dear and will fight to protect and guard.
Tune in tomorrow for WHAT’S WITHIN MY BOUNDARIES?