We’ve embarked on a quest through this boundaries Bible study to learn what Scripture has to say about boundaries so we can learn how to define and implement them in our own lives and relationships. (Click for whole series) In our first section, we learned how to define boundaries God’s way. This time, we’re looking at some examples of healthy boundaries God has set for us in the Bible. We’re hoping that by looking to His perfect example, we’ll glean some wisdom about how to set our own godly boundaries.
5 of God’s Examples of Healthy Boundaries
In reality, there are countless times in the Bible when God demonstrates for us examples of healthy boundaries. It can become difficult to put all that information together in order to come up with some Biblical principles of boundaries to guide us as we set our own.
But after more than three years of studying the Bible on this very specific topic, that’s exactly what I’m going to try to do. I’ve come up with five principles I believe we can apply to our own efforts in setting down our borders. They’re based completely on God’s example through the pages of Scripture.
- Godly boundaries stem from an understanding of who we are, and a refusal to be defined as anything less.
- God’s boundaries in the Bible are made with the intent to draw others in and build healthy relationships, not tear them down or punish
- Godly boundaries lovingly offer choice to others rather than attempting to control them.
- God’s examples of healthy boundaries clearly communicate their expectations, and the reasons behind them.
- Biblical principles of boundaries show clearly defined consequences for a violation of their borders
And in the next section of this Biblical Boundaries series I’ll give you five more principles.
1. Godly Boundaries Stem from an Understanding of Who We are, and a Refusal to be Defined as Anything Less.
Jeremiah 5:22-23 & 25 – Have you no respect for me? Why don’t you tremble in My presence? I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline and an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. But My people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned away and abandoned Me… Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings. Your sin has robbed you of all these good things.
God knows who He is. He is God. Our Lord doesn’t pretend to be anything less, and He does not tolerate being treated as such. He has no qualms about boldly declaring His Lordship, nor fear of claiming His attributes.
So many of the boundaries He has established stem from this simple truth: Disrespecting Him as anything less than the One True God will deprive us of blessing, rob us of good things, and separate us from Him.
We need to follow His example. We need to know and understand who we are in Him. (Click for a Series that can help with that.) The children of the One True God are set apart. They do not abide with sin or join themselves to corruption. They establish their borders with integrity, only allowing in what honors Him, and therefore respects their position in Him.
2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?
2. God’s Boundaries in the Bible are Made with the Intent to Draw Others in and Build Healthy Relationships, not Tear them Down or Punish
Acts 17:26 – From one man He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him – though He is not far from any one of us.
Everything God has established, every parameter He lays is meant to draw people everywhere to Him. Even the consequences of broken boundaries have been established, not simply to punish, but to bring us to the realization that we need Him. We need Him desperately.
If going it alone led to comfort and contentment, what would compel us to seek reconciliation to Him? If our sin didn’t hurt us, why would we need Jesus?
Our boundaries (if they are examples of healthy boundaries) will do the same.
If we go out of our way to make a person who is violating our borders comfortable we are doing him a great disservice! We’re enabling him to continue to live in sin, or worse, making it easy to do so.
On the other hand, when our response to a violated boundary disrupts the comfort of the violator, we’re actually communicating a longing to draw others back into right relationship. This response is not meant simply to make them suffer, but to shed light on the pain and displeasure of living in sin.
When contrasted with the peace and joy of obedience to God, we hope our boundaries draw the people we love to respond with repentance.
init for later!
3. Godly Boundaries Lovingly Offer Choice to Others Rather than Attempting to Control Them.
Revelation 3:20 – Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with Me on My throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on His throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.
Scripture is clear. God does not force us into relationship with Him. He could. He has the power. And He wants us to come to Him. We’re told He doesn’t want ANYONE to perish, but for ALL to come to repentance. Yet, He doesn’t force His way in.
He stands at the door and knocks. He invites us to choose Him and rewards us greatly when we do.
Godly boundaries follow His example.
God has every right to force us to follow Him, just as we have “the right” to a healthy relationship with certain people. When my love promised to spend the rest of his life loving, honoring, and cherishing me, he gave me the right to demand that.
But examples of healthy boundaries say, “I may have the right to this, but I’m still going to let you choose. I’ll invite you to love, honor and cherish me, but you get to choose whether or not you will. Your choice will determine whether you’ll experience the rewards relationship, or give up that relationship.”
Remember, God doesn’t come in to enjoy a meal of friendship with those who leave the door unanswered. Those who reject Him will not sit with Him on His throne. They were given the choice and chose eternal separation.
4. God’s Examples of Healthy Boundaries Clearly Communicate their Expectations, and the Reasons Behind Them.
Deuteronomy 7: 1-4 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are about to enter and occupy, He will clear away many nations ahead of you…when the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy. You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and He will quickly destroy you.
God does not make His people guess what He expects of them. He doesn’t assume that they’ll just know.
He also rarely demands something without explaining why.
Instead, in God’s example of healthy boundaries, He lays out His expectations in detail, communicates them clearly (almost always more than once), explains His reasoning and motivation, and very often asks that the boundary be written down and regularly reviewed.
A healthy Biblical boundary will follow this example.
When making godly boundaries, we’ll take the time to examine our motives so we’ll be able to clearly communicate them.
Then, We will sit down with our relationship partner (husband, child, parent, etc…) and have a conversation about the boundary and the reasons behind it. If he/she won’t listen, we’ll write it down or record it clearly and in detail and ask him to read it or listen to it.
If we need to do it again later, we will.
Once the boundary has been clearly communicated, we’ll write it down and ask that it be confirmed. We’ll leave no room for there to be any confusion as to what is expected.
5. Biblical Principles of Boundaries Show Clearly Defined Consequences for a Violation of Their Borders
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Exodus 19:12 – Mark off a boundary all around the mountain. Warn the people, “Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Anyone who touches the mountain will certainly be put to death.”
God’s boundaries in the Bible never mince words when it comes to letting us know what will happen if we choose to step outside of His border.
He made the consequences clear to Adam and Eve in the garden, He stated them plainly to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and countless others, and He has communicated them clearly to us.
The wages of sin is, always has been, and always will be death. Eternal separation from Him. Period. The only way to avoid those consequences is to operate within His boundaries – to accept His free gift of saving grace and eternal life in relationship with Him.
In our own examples of healthy boundaries we will always be clear about what will happen outside of their borders as well. This is the only way the other person can have all the information necessary to make his choice.
Adam and Eve chose knowledge over perfection. The people of Israel chose indulgence in the worship of idols over submission to the One True God. People far too often choose the pain of violated boundaries over healthy relationship.
This is true for God’s boundaries in the Bible, and sadly, it will be true for us too. Boundaries don’t ensure that there is no violation. They simply lay out what we will do as a result.
Next Week’s Biblical Principles of Boundaries
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:1-5 that we are to be imitators of God. So far we’ve established 5 principles from our awesome God’s examples of healthy boundaries. So as imitators of Him, we need to do the same. We need to:
- Be sure our boundaries stem from an understanding of who we are in Christ. They need to reflect the character and position of a child of the Lord God almighty – created in His image, purchased for a price, and set apart as holy for Him.
- Establish boundaries with the intent to draw others in not push them away.
- Set up our boundaries not to control others, but to offer them a choice.
- Be wholly committed to clearly communicating our boundaries, and the reasons behind them every single time. We can not ever again assume that someone “just knows.”
- Be equally committed to clearly defining the consequences to a violated border. No one should ever have to guess again what I will do if…
Next week we’ll add to this list with 5 more principles for establishing healthy boundaries learned from the example of God in Scripture.
- Godly boundaries will draw out the true heart of others ultimately expediting a resolution – one way or the other.
- Boundaries in the Bible are genuinely concerned for the well-being of another.
- Biblical boundaries are loving.
- Godly boundaries are faithfully enforced – even though it really hurts us to do so.
- Boundaries that follow God’s example always provide a gate.
*How about you? What do you think about these verses and the Biblical principles of boundaries 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!