It took me until I was about…ahhh…58 years old (which I am currently) to realize that it is perfectly acceptable for a Christian to have boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. I love that word. It means I don’t have to be a doormat or allow myself to be stomped on with golf cleats. It is good and right for a Christian to maintain loving boundaries. Verrrryyy….nice.
The tricky part for me is what those boundaries look like. When is it appropriate to say “no” “that’s hurtful” “that’s not right” or “I will not be a part of this”? When should I speak up and when should I sit still? How can I honor God with the boundaries I keep?
We’ll start with boundaries for parent/child and then move on to discuss boundaries in our adult relationships. This is going to get interesting.
When it comes to parenting…I will be bold and say that I think that I have this part nailed. (You may certainly agree to disagree) With my kids I applied the 95% rule. Whenever my darling child would put his/her chubby little toe over the boundary that was set – 95% of the time I would address the behavior. (5% of the time they just beat me down and I didn’t have the energy)
On the first offense, we would have a conversation and if there was a second offense there would be a consequence. Simple enough. Now – once the consequence was handed out, I did not withdraw the consequence and I did not withdraw my love or presence in their lives. There was no more conversation about the offense. Over and done.
In my unprofessional opinion, I emphatically believe the the stronger your boundaries with little kids…the easier it will be when they are older. Boundaries tell your child that you believe they are capable of more. Capable kids become confident kids. Confident kids are more likely to set their own boundaries and live up to their God-given potential.
Simple maybe…but most definitely not easy. Our job is to present firm, consistent, loving, boundaries…that is our God-given responsibility.
Now – before I get started on boundaries in adult/adult relationships I want to make a disclaimer.
***For those of you who are married – this blog does not apply to your marriage. If you are struggling in your marriage – try to have conversations and if that doesn’t work seek counseling. If you are experiencing physical abuse – separate immediately and seek professional help.
Now comes the hard part for me. Setting boundaries in adult/adult relationships is even more complicated. I am going to tell you what I deduced according to me based on scripture and study. I cannot promise you that it is theologically foolproof and I imagine many of you will have a different take on this. If nothing else…I hope this blog will cause you to investigate further and inquire of the Lord so that you can make godly boundaries in your own life.
Over and over I have asked the Lord – When someone gets inside my walls – what am I to do? Do I always have to turn the other cheek and love my enemy? What does that mean and what does it look like? Does Jesus desire that I be a doormat or have golf cleats imprinted on my face?
I came back to the 95% rule…only this time it’s the complete opposite as the rule I used with my kids. Let’s take a look at the following scripture.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18
So, with adults – 95% of the time I will let things go. Turn the other cheek, love my enemy, do good to those who hurt me, and overlook the offense. This should be the overarching aim of my life. OK – with some heavy duty prayer I think that I can do that.
And the 5%?
In the rare instance when someone has really gotten inside of my walls – when it feels like an assault to my person or my soul, or if they are hurtful to others..it deserves a conversation.
Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love. We should not fester, stuff, stew, or discuss with other people – we should take it to the offender and speak with truth and love.
Almost every time I have had the courage to speak the truth in love it has made the relationship stronger and healthier than it was before. Conflict resolution can be uncomfortable – and there are times when I have learned that I unknowingly contributed to the conflict. If both parties are willing, apologies can be made and forgiveness can be extended. New agreements are made. This is biblical reconciliation.
But what if the other party refuses to acknowledge the offense/behavior or refuses to even have a conversation? What if there is no willingness to change? Now is when things start to get dicey for me. This is when I have asked the Lord – Am I still expected to turn the other cheek? Should I keep serving myself up for more?
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23
…absolutely beautiful. Here God tells us that sometimes boundaries are necessary in order to guard our hearts. We should never enable behavior that is harmful to us. This doesn’t mean we should be oversensitive – remember – 95% of the time we are letting things go. But when something gets inside of our walls that breaks our heart – it is good and right to set boundaries.
And how exactly do we set boundaries with someone who refuses to change or take accountability? Again, I am going to refer to the scriptures. You may find this to be somewhat shocking…
Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. – Titus 3:10
“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.” – Matthew 18:15-17
Have nothing to do with them? That’s quite a boundary. And what does Jesus mean when He says to treat someone like a pagan or a corrupt person?
Jesus didn’t keep hanging around and having coffee with the pagans and tax collectors who were argumentative and refused to listen. He takes sin seriously and sometimes His love was tough. Here He tells us that sometimes we are to move on.
But even though He moved on He still loved them and prayed for them. His offer of grace was left on the table and He still desired that one day they would be reconciled to Him.
It is always good to follow in the path that Jesus walked. We can do good to someone who hurt us by forgiving their offenses. We can turn the other cheek by refraining from avenging ourselves. We can love our enemy by praying for them. We can extend grace by not being angry or mad anymore. We can honor the Lord by having a conversation with someone that could bring healing. We can remain present by maintaining a soft heart towards a true reconciliation.
So…if someone is deep inside your walls you should have a conversation. Guard your heart by establishing boundaries and speak the truth in love. Say it once and say it nice…say it two times…and if there is no resolution –
…walk away…but leave the door open.