As Christians, we sometimes promote forgiveness without consequences and generosity without responsibility, and we often downplay the importance of boundaries. When in reality, boundaries in our lives and relationships are a vital component of our spiritual, emotional, relational, and physical health — and of the overall health of others as well.
A boundary is a personal property line. I like to think of it as my personal picket fence — one that protects my personal space. It is approachable but keeps people, places, and things out that will potentially cause me harm. With our picket fence in place, we can choose to open the gate and invite safe friends and opportunities in, while keeping unsafe people and situations out. But, over time, we often neglect our fences, our gates get broken, or they are missing altogether. Other times, we build walls that are impenetrable and find ourselves separated from healthy people, places, and things. Therefore, we must regularly inspect our boundaries to make sure they are appropriate and in working order.
God is clear about His view on boundaries. Throughout Scripture, He gives numerous commands and biblical accounts as examples. When we turn our back on God, it negatively impacts the closeness of our relationship with Him, and when we sin, there’s always a price to pay. Consequences are established to inspire true repentance and genuine restoration.
“Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” Isaiah 59:1-2 (NLT)When others sin against us, it’s important to set healthy boundaries and when we observe the consequences others are suffering, it’s vital we not interfere. We can forgive, lovingly support, and encourage others who are experiencing negative responses to their behaviors, but we must never attempt to lighten their penalty. Otherwise — we set them up to inevitably repeat their mistakes over and over again and hinder the possibility of true healing.
Forgiveness IS canceling a debt that is owed and eliminating the bitterness of a past offense. Forgiveness is NOT eliminating consequences and failing to set up necessary boundaries to protect against future offenses.
Practice the following steps when setting healthy boundaries.
- Forgive —and put away your “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander… along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
- Be kind— to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
- Pray— for those who hurt you and put appropriate boundaries in place going forward in this relationship.
- Communicate — your boundaries with truth in love, and establish the necessary consequences for repeat offenders.
What shape are your boundaries in? Do you need to make necessary repairs?
“Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.
Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.”
Proverbs 19:18-19 (NLT)