5 Rules for Setting Boundaries from Boundaries in the Bible.
We’ve been spending some time learning about Biblical boundaries in marriage (click for whole series) over the past 3 weeks. We’ve already looked at quite a bit of Scriptures about setting boundaries. Then, we spent time defining and laying out some Biblical principles surrounding God’s boundaries. Today we’re laying out five rules we can make based on boundaries in the Bible.
Rule #1 – Boundaries in the Bible Show Us that We Reap What we Sow.
Galatians 6:7-8 – Don’t be misled – you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
Often times, when we refuse to set boundaries, it’s because we don’t want to see the people we love hurting. We get in between them and the natural consequences for their bad choices in an attempt to protect them. Unfortunately, what we’re doing is the exact opposite of protection. Love does not participate in, or even enable sin.Often times when we refuse to set boundaries it's because we don't want to see the people we love hurting. We get in between them and the consequences for their bad choices in an attempt to protect them. Unfortunately, what we're… Click To Tweet
Strong, Biblical boundaries keep us from becoming a party to things that do not please God. At the same time, allowing the misery that follows disobedience to fall squarely upon the one who has rebelled.
I was particularly struck by the verse above from Galatians that says, “you cannot mock the justice of God.” I realized that when I refuse to follow the example of boundaries in the Bible, I am attempting to mock the justice of God!
Bible Scriptures about Setting Boundaries
Proverbs 19:19 – Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 – Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”
You see, when I refuse to follow the examples of boundaries in the Bible, I’m actually trying to stop the decay and death that is sure to grow from the scattered seeds of sin from sprouting. What folly! For it is that very decay and death that is most likely to bring about the Godly sorrow that leads to repentance! It is the hunger that results from laziness that will drive the sluggard to work!
May God give us the courage to firmly establish our borders and get out of His way. May we have the strength to leave those who choose to remain outside to the consequences of their choices and remain safe within our walls.
Rule #2 – We Measure Actions, Not Words
1 John 4:1- Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.
John 3: 3 & 18-21 – Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…. There is no judgement against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgement is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.“
Boundaries are violated by actions, and the gate back in should only be unlocked and opened (click to learn more about the concept of a gate) as a result of actions as well.
Last week we talked about how God made a way for us to get back to Himself once we had violated His boundaries. (As we all have and do.) The shed blood of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness for our sins, but only when we repent and accept that gift. God’s boundaries in the Bible demonstrate that without the act of repentance there is no redemption.
We need to follow this example. But unlike God, we can’t see a person’s heart to know if repentance is true, simply because the offender says so. Words can be false, and the enemy is a master of deception.
Use the Light to Expose the Darkness
But the Bible tells us that evil will run from light, while righteousness will boldly step into the light for all to see. Actions matter. We must become students of these actions.
Strong Biblical boundaries will patiently and lovingly wait for violators to step out into the light of Scripture – willingly allowing their actions to come under scrutiny in order to prove their genuine repentance. And one who is truly repentant will be equally patient – understanding time is needed and they have forfeited all rights.
Repentant violators understand that the gate is an act of grace – they don’t deserve it. So they will be willing to wait as long as they need to for it to open!Strong Biblical boundaries will patiently and lovingly wait for violators to step out into the light of Scripture – willingly allowing their actions to come under scrutiny in order to prove their genuine repentance. Click To Tweet
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Rule #3 – When You’re Obedient to Scriptures About Setting Boundaries, You Can Make them with Confidence. There Should Be No Guilt in Obedience.
2 Corinthians 7:8-9 – I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while.
Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants His people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way.
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
The fact of the matter is, enforcing strong Biblical boundaries will inevitably hurt people we love. (Though really it is their own sin hurting them not the boundary. It just won’t feel that way at first.) Likewise, watching people we love be hurt (seemingly) by our boundaries will hurt us, and we will be tempted to feel sorry we decided to act in obedience to God. But this is when it’s so important we understand this concept from a Biblical perspective!
We haven’t set our boundaries to be mean. We haven’t done it to punish or get revenge. Our boundaries are to protect us from the consequences of another’s sins, and to allow the full force of those consequences to fall on him – hopefully leading him to Godly sorrow which leads to repentance.
Biblical boundaries are an act of love!
Rule #4 – Healthy Boundaries in Church Should Support Biblical Boundaries in Marriage
Matthew 18:15-20 – If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.
What power we are missing out on in this New Testament Church Age by disregarding the need for strong boundaries in regards to sin among our members! But unfortunately, healthy boundaries in church are rare.
What We Learn from History
Bear with me for a bit, while I remind you of something that happened in the Old Testament Era:
When God gave the law to Moses and the people of Israel, there were several lines He drew that were extremely rigid. For instance, in Deuteronomy 13 God demanded that the people of Israel put to death anyone who tried to entice others to worship other gods.
He told them they had to “purge the evil from among them.” Many times, He gave commands such as this one.
God had chosen these people to be set apart for Him. He intended for them to be a holy people.
But the Israelites didn’t take those commands as seriously as God did. They did not enforce the consequences He had demanded for the broken boundaries. As a result, over time the hearts of the entire nation were turned from God.
The wickedness they had left unchecked festered and grew until it had taken over the hearts of all the people. They abandoned Him to the point He was forced to separate Himself from them for a time and send them into exile.
Don’t Repeat the Mistakes of the Past
I ask you, church, have we not learned our lesson from them? When God sent Jesus to die for us, He grafted us into the nation of Israel and set us apart as His very own possession. (Click to learn more about being grafted into Israel) A holy people. Yet we dare to minimize His commands to remain set apart!
I assert that the rampant corruption, particularly in the area of sexual purity, among the body of Christ is due in large part to our disobedience in this area!
Healthy boundaries within the church would never leave a wife alone to enforce strong Biblical boundaries with a husband who is unrepentant in his unfaithfulness. (Pornography is cheating!) And remember, we’ve already learned that true repentance is measured in actions not words.
The Bible has clearly laid out a procedure to follow in such cases, and not just in one place either! We’ve seen Matthew 18 above, here is what 1 Corinthians 5 has to say about it:
1 Corinthians 5
I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you – something that even pagans don’t do…
You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship...
You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.
Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are.
Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.
When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that.
I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.
It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, You must remove the evil person from among you.“
A Call to Obedience
People of God, it is time to be obedient! Scripture has been crystal clear! Let it not be just a few of us who have the courage to obey – like Caleb and Joshua on the border of the promised land.
Will people be offended, and get angry if we obey God’s boundaries in the Bible? Yeah. Probably. But let us rise up as a body and put our faith in God – allowing HIM to handle the fall out of our obedience!
Rule #5 – Boundaries that Haven’t Been Communicated Clearly Should Never Be Enforced
Deuteronomy 29:29 – The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.
Our God is complex beyond anything we can imagine! He has revealed much of Himself to us through Scripture, but there is more about Him we don’t know.
The Bible is clear – He won’t hold us accountable for what He hasn’t revealed. He does not expect us to read His mind. He DOES expect us to read His Word, and to live in obedience to it.
It is imperative we follow His example when setting up boundaries.
We are created in the image of our Lord – complex beyond the understanding of those around us. Which means we absolutely cannot expect anyone to read our minds or anticipate our wants and needs. We HAVE to communicate them. And we cannot hold anyone accountable for what has not been communicated.
By the same token, the people in our lives are also created in the image of God – complex beyond OUR understanding. We cannot read their minds either. Nor can we expect (or be expected) to anticipate their wants, needs, thoughts, motivations, etc…
Let’s follow our Lord’s boundaries in the Bible and clearly communicating our own. May we expect, as He does that our terms be respected and upheld. Let’s do our part to operate with integrity. May we be who we’ve said we would be and do what we’ve said we would do.
Conclusion on Boundaries in the Bible
So here they are, 5 Rules we can make when setting Biblical boundaries in marriage. Each one stemming from Bible verses about boundaries in relationships.
If you find you’re still a little confused, I encourage you to hang in there with this series. In the next section we will finally get REALLY practical. We’re going to help you answer some questions that will allow you to lay out your own boundaries. AND, we have a marriage boundaries worksheet to help! So click through to apply what we’ve learned about boundaries in the Bible to your own personal boundaries!
*How about you? What do you think about these Bible verses about boundaries in relationships and the principles I’ve drawn from them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Did you know all the content in this series has been expanded into an interactive workbook full of questions and prompts to help you work through this issue in your own life? Click through the image below and get yours today!
***Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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