<<borders, restrictions>>

They are limits that define one area from another. God places boundaries or limits on what is acceptable behaviour. Within those confines there is freedom of expression yet outside them there are consequences.  The Ten Commandments were given to protect our relationship with God (the first four), and our fellow humans (the remaining six) by creating a stable society that could function in an orderly manner, acknowledging God as Lord (Ex 20:1-17). These limitations are not to be debated or negotiated but accepted and lived by, as they are for our own protection and the benefit of others to avoid harm and evil. Moving the literal boundary stones and gaining more land was a serious offence in OT times (Deut 19:14, 27:17).

God desires we love Him enough to remain contentedly inside His guidelines. All actions have aftereffects; in obeying God is blessing, while by disobeying there is a curse (Deut 28:1,2,15). We are vulnerable if we go outside or beyond these limitations, opening ourselves up to destructive forces, yet we are securely protected if we obediently remain within their borders for God’s laws protect, give wisdom, enjoyment, guidance and success to those who obey them (Ps 19:7-11). God is not a despot and doesn’t prevent us stepping outside these boundaries; indeed He often explains

the outcome even if we don’t fully comprehend the significance. Adam and Eve didn’t grasp the magnitude of the price tag when they were tempted to eat of the prohibited fruit (Gen 2:16,17). 

Establishing limits is essential for healthy relationships as this sense of separation forms the basis of personal identity and individuality by defining who we are and who we are not. Confusion can arise when people don’t know their boundaries and may stunt personality development affecting all parties involved. A child brought up within specified limits will grow into a self-controlled, emotionally whole and responsible adult, yet knowing they can’t always have what they want.

While responsible for what lies inside our boundaries, we are not for what is outside – that is our neighbour’s concern. We are answerable for our attitudes, emotions, choices and behaviour, besides developing our talents and abilities. Freedom comes in accepting responsibility for and dealing with our problems while bondage is the result of giving our

Strengthen your ‘walls’ and don’t cross the boundaries

responsibility away. We need to set boundaries or limits on what we will tolerate from others or else we may resent those who try to control us through wrong dependency alliances. We should be sensitive to the feelings of others about the decisions we have made, yet not take responsibility for how they feel; we are responsible to others, not for them.

When under pressure don’t surrender your moral values or the control of your life to another – only to Jesus. Politely saying ‘No’ and maintaining that decision defines a boundary while compromising by giving in to subtle pressure or bribes will cause these walls of defence to become worthless.

Practical suggestions

Boundaries are like fences – keeping the good in and the bad out, serving as protectors of our freedom and security. With the guidance of God's Word and integrity establish, reinforce, maintain and monitor the essential boundaries in your life, as once they are breached it is difficult to regain credibility. Such boundaries should cover all aspects of our life:

1/. Spiritual – have adequate time with God for your own devotions. This is the area most under attack. We need regular spiritual food to live well. We also need God’s perspective on the world and ourselves. None of us is ‘the Saviour of the world’ – that job has already been filled and don’t think you are the only worker God has (1 Kgs 19:14,18).

2/. Moral – endeavour not to be alone with a person of the opposite gender, especially if they are still a child, as many people have been compromised and their lives shattered through unwise, even if innocent involvement. Children need hedges about them for protection so do not place them in vulnerable situations.

3/. Emotional – have a support network of close friends with whom you can relax with and pray about issues together. Teach your children about unacceptable behaviour like temper tantrums and the like.

4/. Physical – take time out, have adequate food, exercise and rest otherwise the body’s effectiveness will be reduced.

5/. Family – give them adequate quality and undivided time just for them. What do you gain by saving the world but losing your own family because of a lack of attention? After all they are your main (but not only) responsibility.

6/. Financial – if handling another’s finances do so in the presence of others so no one can accuse you of misappropriating what is not yours, and also keep accurate records.

Reflect on what boundaries you employ in each area

7/. Thought life – Jesus said if the action is wrong so is the intention of the

heart even if not outworked (Mt 5:28). Be careful what you think “for as a man thinks within himself, so is he” (Prov 4:23, 23:7). Takes measures to block out what is not helpful.

8/. Free time – use it profitably and wisely with no involvement in destructive habits. Be accountable to a mature friend.

These issues are our responsibility and our lives are at risk so take them seriously. At the same time respect the choices and rights of others (to create their boundaries), as we also desire ours to be honoured. Increasingly we should be developing internal boundaries of self-discipline by putting off the old

way of life and putting on the new Christ-centred way, finding and doing what pleases the Lord (Eph 5:10).

See also: accountability, blessed or cursed, commandments, compromise, consequences, entry points, integrity, obedience, temptation.