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Mar 09
Shirley Goodman

What are the Biblical Laws of Boundaries?

Posted by: Shirley Goodman

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Boundary issues affect all areas of a person’s life. Jesus states by a person’s fruits you will recognize them (Matthew 7:20), if you have identified your boundary issues remember, do not focus on the symptomatic relief. The problem’s FRUIT (result) must be eliminated.  The symptom signals that you are in pain, and you have a problem to solve. Identify the symptom of your boundary problem, and start the journey of developing God-given personal boundaries. God has given us principles in the Scriptures to help with developing and maintaining good boundaries. These are 10 principles that God has provided for us.

Law of Sowing and Reaping--Galatians 6:7 states “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”.  Sowing and reaping is not a punishment from God, it is the law of cause and effect at work. We are personally responsible for our own actions and the consequences of those actions.  When we intervene or have someone intervene on our behalf, the results of irresponsible behavior are suspended and personal responsibility does not occur. Some people bring pain on themselves when they encounter irresponsible people. They must stop interrupting the law of sowing and reaping. The loving thing to do is to allow the person to reap the consequences of his behavior that is how maturity takes place.

Law of Responsibility—We are responsible for our own feelings, actions and behaviors. When we take responsibility for someone else, we keep him or her in an immature state.  In Philippians’ God tells us “continue to work, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (2:12-13)”. We are taught to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Being responsible and loving is setting limits on another person’s destructive and irresponsible behavior.

Law of Power and Powerlessness --We cannot change anyone else’s behaviors, but we can change ourselves with God’s help. The Scriptures tell us that we can overcome personal obstacles “because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1John 4:4).” Boundaries help clarify what you do and do not have power over. You must pray for wisdom to know what you have power to change and what you do not.

Law of Respect (Receiving Others Boundaries) --We must learn to hear other people’s “NO”. Matthew tells us in the Golden Rule “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you (7:12).” All of us want to know we are being heard and our opinions and choices respected.

Law of Motivation-- Developing boundaries helps people gain control of their  own life and fulfill what they are created for which is love. With proper motivation, we can experience freedom and responsibility. There is a fear that we will lose love or people will be angry if boundaries are set. There are other false motivators such as fear of loneliness, thinking love means always saying yes, thinking good people say yes, payback for all you received from a person, and trying to overcome the inner guilt. These false motives can keep you from setting personal boundaries.

Law of Evaluation --This is an important concept to understand. There is a difference between “hurting” and “harming” another person. Jesus speaks of following Him in  tough situations as having two choices “the narrow gate” and the easier to travel path “the broad way” that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14), the broad way is not setting boundaries  where they are needed. Jesus might have called this “tough love” in today’s society. You need to evaluate the effects of setting boundaries. Boundary setting requires decision-making and confrontation, which can lead to pain for someone you love. The pain you cause is because you made a choice that someone else did not like. The Scriptures tell us in Ephesians 4:25 we must be honest with others, we all need truth and confrontation from others to spiritually grow and mature.

Law of Proactive vs. Reactive Boundaries--Proactive boundaries means you can freely choose to love, enjoy and serve one another. Reactive boundaries means you are letting someone else define and control who you are and what you do. Proactive people show you what they love, they want, what they stand for. A reactive person is known by what they do not like, what they hate, what they stand against and what they will not do. In all relationships, you may have a reactive period or feelings but spiritual adulthood calls you to move on to a proactive position. Make this a topic of prayer.

Law of Envy --Envy defines “good” as “what I do not possess and hates the good I have”. This destructive sin guarantees that we will not get what we want and keeps us perpetually insatiable and dissatisfied. It is not wrong to want things; the problem is envy focuses outside our boundaries onto others. Hebrews tells us to “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”(13:5). Envy should always be a sign that something is lacking in your spiritual life. Ask God for help to understand what you resent.  Why you do not have it and whether you truly need it. Envy is always a boundary issue.

Law of Activity --Boundaries’ are created in our lives when we take action. We must take responsibility for our lives by initiating and accepting our responsibility for our feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. To take ownership of the problem you must ask yourself, “What am I going to do?”, and then develop and carry out an action plan.

Law of Exposure-- Internal boundaries need to be effectively shared with others. If others do not see or hear our boundaries, how can we expect them to be respected? Three red flags that you are not communicating your boundaries properly are found in our behaviors of grumbling (internal resentment), explosiveness (anger), and allowing personal victimization (allowing abusive behavior to continue and control). Knowing your boundary and conveying it to another are two different things. Our boundaries must move from an internal belief to external action to be effective in our relationships.

Just as God wants a real relationship with us, He wants us to have a real relationship with others. Our boundaries are affected by sin, and need to be brought to the light for God to heal them, if others are to benefit from them. The only true path to genuine love is communicating boundaries openly. As boundaries are exercised and respected, real love can grow and abound.

(Adapted from Boundaries --Cloud & Townsends)

Next:  Myths of Boundaries


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