We’re spending some time learning about Biblical boundaries around here. (Click for the whole series) We’ve already spent two weeks defining and laying out some Biblical principles of boundaries to help us as we learn to establish our own good, healthy boundaries. I hope you’ll stick around for the whole series! Today we’re building on what we learned last time by adding five more principles we can learn from the example God sets for us in Scripture. If God sets boundaries in the Bible, you can bet He wants us to follow His lead!
God’s Boundaries in the Bible
Last week laid out 5 Biblical principles of boundaries we learn from the example of God in Scripture. Before we add to the list, let’s recap what we learned.
- Godly boundaries stem from an understanding of who we are, and a refusal to be defined as anything less. ( We have to learn to find our identity in Christ, so we’ll be able to understand how we should be defined.)
- Biblical boundaries are made with the intent to draw others in and build healthy relationships, not tear them down or punish. (We learned to check our motives, and align them with God’s)
- Healthy boundaries lovingly offer choice to others rather than attempting to control them. (Love does not demand its own way.)
- Godly boundaries clearly communicate their expectations, and the reasons behind them.
- Biblical boundaries clearly define the consequences of a violation of their borders.
Let’s continue our list with 5 more examples of how God sets boundaries in Scripture so we can identify some more biblical principles about boundaries.
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5 More Biblical Principles of Boundaries We Learn from God.
6. Biblical Boundaries Will Draw Out the True Heart of Others, Ultimately Expediting a Resolution (One Way or the Other.)
This passage is a little long to include here, but click the reference to read Matthew 19:16-22 about the rich man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life.
Unfortunately, we can’t see the heart of another, as Jesus could. He already knew this man was not ready to humble himself and give up everything for the Kingdom of God. But the boundary He established here (go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor) brought quickly to light what was already in the man’s heart: An unwillingness to give up his possessions in order to store up treasure in heaven. Or, more accurately, a connection to the temporal that refused to look to the eternal.
Translation: He’d rather keep his stuff now than follow Jesus forever.
Jesus could have invited the man to follow without setting this boundary. (After all we don’t have record of Him asking anyone else to do this.) But it wouldn’t have changed anything other than time. Eventually, the hardness of the man’s heart would still have come to light, and he still would have chosen his things over Jesus. Drawing the line right away simply saved both Jesus and the man from wasting their time, energy, and emotions on a lie.
Following the example of Christ
Often times, we’re afraid to enact boundaries because we fear doing so will result in the loss of a relationship we desperately want to keep intact. But the reality is, we’re being shortsighted and un-trusting (of God’s sovereignty) when we allow this to stop us from being obedient.
Strong, Biblical boundaries save us from spending years being hurt again and again by a fake relationship. By a lie.
And remember, the story is never over until it’s over. Just because this man walked away on that day doesn’t mean he never came back. The Bible doesn’t tell us. He may have!
Just because our boundaries escalate a situation today, doesn’t mean the person or the relationship is lost forever. GOD IS IN CONTROL – trust Him!Often times, we're afraid to enact boundaries because we fear that doing so will result in the loss of a relationship we desperately want to keep intact. But the reality is, we're being shortsighted and un-trusting (of God's… Click To Tweet
7. God’s Boundaries in the Bible are Genuinely Concerned for the Well-Being of Another.
Genesis 4:6-7- “Why are you so angry?” The Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
Deuteronomy 8:5-6 – Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good. So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.
God sets boundaries with us and does not silently leave us with the unchecked freedom to do whatever we want BECAUSE God cares too much about our well-being to do so. Just as we don’t allow our 2-year-old child to play with sharp knives (a boundary), not because we want to deprive her of fun, but because we don’t want her to get hurt by something she absolutely cannot handle.
Biblical boundaries understand the dangers and vulnerabilities of unchecked borders. When we’re following the example of boundaries in the Bible, we’ll recognize that by refusing to separate ourselves from sin, we’re not only hurting ourselves, but enabling others to keep sinning as well.
When we’re truly concerned for the well-being of those we love, we will establish guidelines for ourselves that will help keep us, and by extension them, safe. We will understand that sin is crouching at the door, eager to control all of us, and we will absolutely refuse to be a party to it. We’ll admonish them, as God did Cain, to simply choose what is right in order to subdue it. For their own good!
8. Biblical Boundaries are loving.
Proverbs 23:13-14 – Don’t fail to discipline your children. The rod of punishment won’t kill them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.
Proverbs 3:11-12 – My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when He corrects you. For the Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects the child in whom he delights.
This is probably the area I struggle with the most. It doesn’t “feel” loving to say, “If you do x, I will have to separate myself from you for 90 days.” It feels mean.
The thing is, I can see it easily with my children. I totally get that setting strong boundaries with them and enforcing painful consequences when they disobey is a loving way to set them up for success in life. I can understand that as a result of my delight in them, I will faithfully discipline and correct.
But my husband is not my child. My friends, my parents, extended family members are not the same as my children. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I have a right to “discipline” those people.
Our Call to Set Boundaries from the Bible
Then I read a passage like 1 Corinthians 5 (click to read). Wow!
Friends, God has commanded us to establish and enforce boundaries around morality with all believers! Why? As an act of love. Verse 5 shows us that disciplining such violations will basically force the person to hit rock bottom, which is the most likely way to see him restored.
If we love our fellow believers, we will enact the “rod of punishment” as Proverbs 23 describes it. Because doing so won’t kill them, but it may well save them from death!If we love our fellow believers, we will enact the 'rod of punishment' because doing so won't kill them, but it may well save them from death! (Proverbs 23:13-14 & 1 Corinthians 5) Click To Tweet
9. When God Sets Boundaries, they are Faithfully Enforced (Even Though it Breaks His Heart)
Genesis 6:5-7 – The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry He had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth…
Romans 1:18-32 – But God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them…Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired…They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator Himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires…
Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip…
The Application for Us
The Bible makes it clear that the sin of human beings breaks God’s heart. He loves us. Dearly.
But when we abandon Him – when we choose to live according to our own fleshly desires instead of according to His commands, He will enforce His boundaries, though it breaks His heart to do so. He will separate Himself from us and leave us to our folly.
We should follow His example. When those we love (dearly) abandon a life of integrity, it is imperative for the good of every single person involved that we hold to our boundaries. Even though it feels like the pain might kill us.
We must draw lines that separate us from their foolishness and sin, lest we reap the consequences too!
10. Biblical Boundaries Provide a Gate
1 John 1:5-9 – This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
God’s boundaries are strong. They are immovable. BUT, they have a gate. He has not simply established the way out, but provided a way back in! Praise His holy Name!
In His infinite love, God provided a way for those who found themselves outside His borders (all of us!) to be allowed back in. He gave up His own rights and took our punishment upon Himself so that all we have to do is repent of our evil ways, turn to Him, and receive forgiveness.
We can’t get inside His territory by any way other than that gate, though. He made His boundaries clear and He made ONE WAY back in. (Jesus!)
Strong, healthy, Biblical boundaries will do the same. If we seek to live in obedience to scripture, we will be willing to open our gates, give up our rights, and provide one way for someone who is repentant to come back inside our borders.
God Sets Boundaries, and We Need to Apply the Biblical Principles we Learn from His Example.
So there you go. We have 10 Biblical principles of boundaries we can draw from observing God’s boundaries in Scripture.
If you find yourself feeling a little confused (or overwhelmed) at this point, stick with me. As the series continues we’ll learn a few more things about what the Bible has to say about boundaries. But then we’re going to get into some really practical application and offer some tools to help you work these things out for yourself. By the time it closes, I believe you’ll have a solid handle on the issue and be fully equipped to draw up your own God-honoring borders. Remember, our ultimate goal is always to be obedient to our Lord!
Ephesians 5:1-5 – Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live alife filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes – these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
*How about you? What do you think about these verses 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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