Defining boundaries – what they are, and why they’re important is an essential first step on the road to recovering from intimate betrayal, abuse, and other marital problems. We need to know what boundaries are, and we need to set them in our own lives and relationships. Most of us have heard this imperative stated and restated by all the experts. But for those of us committed to Scripture, we need to know what God has to say.
Like so many others, I really struggled with the idea of boundaries in my marriage. I believed them to be unloving and unsubmissive. I felt certain they went against the principles of Scripture. But as I began defining boundaries with the Bible as my guide I realized that God sets boundaries in His relationships, and He asks us to do the same. Through my own study I learned the importance of Biblical boundaries in marriage. Now, I’m taking what I’ve learned and making it into a boundaries Bible study series. (Click for the whole series) I hope you’ll join me as we examine what the Bible has to say on the issue and begin defining boundaries God’s way.
What are Boundaries and Why are they Important?
Merriam-Webster defines a boundary as: “Something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.” The Oxford English Dictionary says it this way: “A line which marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.”
I kinda like both. When we set personal boundaries, we’re ‘drawing a line’ or ‘fixing a limit.’ We’re clearly communicating where the actions of another will reach the extent of our tolerance and thus divide them from us. Boundaries define our borders. They establish who we are: where we begin, and where we end.
I had the honor of guest posting on Hope & Joy in Christ as part of Tiffany’s 31 Days of Hope for Marriage Online Event. In that post I talked a lot about defining boundaries. I explained that our personal boundaries are not much different from physical ones. Just as we would protect ourselves from implication in the unlawful action of a neighbor by putting up a fence to protect our physical property from their bad behavior, we erect a perimeter around our hearts with good boundaries. (Click to read the full article.)
A person with no boundaries is a person who is undefined. This will most often result in confusion. Both on the part of those we find ourselves in relationship with, and within ourselves. We won’t know how to proceed when we feel violated, because we won’t know for sure that we HAVE been violated.
In my struggle with the idea of boundaries, I found myself torn between knowing I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) tolerate my husband’s sin, and a belief that taking action would be selfish and unloving. Each time a new discovery of his acting out would come to light I would clearly communicate to him that it wasn’t okay, but beyond that, I just didn’t know what to do. It left me feeling so helpless.
init for later!
Defining Boundaries – God’s Way
Titus 2:14-15 – He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. You must teach these things and encourage the believer to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.
Since then I’ve learned that just as a clearly marked property line plainly establishes when our borders have been crossed and an individual has violated our property, so a clearly defined personal boundary will do the same for our hearts. We won’t have to explain why or how we were violated. It will be clearly evident by which side of the fence the person stands on!
Boundaries are a necessary part of every human relationship! Parents need to establish clear and concise boundaries for their children. Employers need to do the same for their employees, and vise-versa. Friendships need boundaries. Families need boundaries. Church bodies need boundaries within their members. Marriages desperately need boundaries. In fact, even our relationship with God has been established upon clearly communicated boundaries from Him to us.
That’s right! Our God sets boundaries! He has established them, communicated them, and He keeps them. He is a God of boundaries, and He commands us to do the same!
God Sets Boundaries
As I’ve been reading the Bible over the last few years, specifically looking for examples of God’s boundaries, I’ve been blown away! In fact, I challenge you to find a single book of the Bible that doesn’t include a boundary! Whether they are physical, emotional, spiritual or relational, God’s boundaries fill the pages of Scripture.
Even creation itself demonstrates His power to define the lines between heaven and earth, land and sea, Creator and created.
Additionally, our God is a covenant maker, and covenants are basically clearly defined and agreed upon boundaries. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation God lays out His parameters for His people.
God Sets Boundaries Scripture
Genesis 2:15-17 – The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
Revelation 22:11-15 -Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.
“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs – the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.
You see, God sets boundaries! Right from the beginning God gave Adam his limits. He told him what he could do, what he couldn’t do, and what would happen if he did it anyhow. And all the way to the very end, God has clearly established His borders and plainly defined who will be allowed inside of them, and who will not. From there, He allows us the freedom to choose on which side of the line we’ll be found. Our God is, without question, a God of boundaries!
Defining Boundaries Bible Study
So, let’s see what we can learn from Him, shall we? As we make our way through this boundaries Bible study we’ll see principles we can learn from examining God’s boundaries in Scripture. We’ll look at passages from all over the Bible, Old and New Testament, to see if we can gain some understanding of our Father’s heart.
As we seek to honor our Lord in this area, we’ll learn what Biblical boundaries look like, how to set them up, and how being obedient in this area ultimately puts God in control.
*How about you? Have you had preconceptions about boundaries based on the teaching of church tradition rather than the Word of God? Are you skeptical to hear that setting strong boundaries is something God has asked us to do as believers? I’d love to hear about it 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!