Can Christians Have Boundaries?
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Boundaries are so important. As a Christian, legalism and guilt can cause us to think we’re not allowed to have boundaries. Many will attempt to take advantage of our identity, as if we’re to be overlooked, our feelings ignored, and if we don’t like it?
“Tough! Turn the other cheek and deal with it! You’re a Christian! What would Jesus do?!”
This is wrong and not from God. Such notions are actually from the enemy and the power of sin (see Revelation 12:10, Genesis 4:7). First of all, we are not God, we’re human. Therefore our relationships with other humans isn’t the same as God’s relationship with them. So our human relationships can’t be compared in all aspects; that is, like God’s with people.
For example, we humans like to be apologized to when someone hurts us, this is reasonable and healthy. Forgiveness is ongoing with us and others. With God it isn’t because He only forgives through blood and Christ does not shed His blood ongoingly. It’s finished. He did this once and won’t do it again. People aren’t offering blood to us for forgiveness. That’d be gross. When someone says, “I’m sorry,” building trust can then begin, not when they say, “Here, take this blood.”
Do you see the difference? God has a blood-based forgiveness system. We have an apology-based forgiveness system. Yes, we can still forgive without an apology, but to build a strong union apologies sure do help.
With God, we can apologize all we like but apologies don’t forgive us. Any unbeliever can apologize, they still need a one-time faith in Christ. Again, our Creator only forgives by way of faith in blood once in our entire lifetime. Our mustard-seed confidence in Jesus’ blood allows us to access the Father and Son’s faithfulness to each other. We become beneficiaries to their promise to one another, established at the Cross (see Hebrews 6:16-19, 9:16,22-24, 10:10-14, 1 John 2:2, John 3:16-18, 19:30, 2 Timothy 2:13).
We can and should say sorry to God, but never to be repeatedly forgiven. Jesus will never die again, so we will never be forgiven again as believers (see Hebrews 1:3, 7:25).
So–in regard to healthy boundaries, as Christians, we’re allowed to establish them with people for our own well-being. No matter what flavor of guilt is placed on us–aggressive or passive-aggressive–God encourages us to enjoy our lives peacefully. We can only do this with others through boundaries. Paul tells the Romans:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
It’s not always possible to live at peace with everyone. Their disrespectful boundary-crossing won’t allow it. Sometimes it’s religious boundary-crossing, such as a pastor or sanctimonious aunt pushing Law on you. Other times, it’s in your own home, such as a lazy individual who won’t get out of bed, or a spouse not honoring their marriage vows. It could even be a friend or grandchild who continually mooches off you.
No boundaries equals no living at peace. No boundaries amounts to no enjoyment of a relationship. Instead, chaos, pain, disorganization, codependency, abuse, filth, and frustration is the result.
Someone might say, “We don’t need boundaries, we have Jesus,” and that’s true. Jesus is enough. This is why He’ll never lead us to allow ourselves to be repeatedly hurt. His Holy Spirit will guide us toward establishing boundaries for our own well-being. This isn’t selfish, it’s wise. We cannot express Christ without taking care of ourselves, so we must stand up to ongoing poor treatment.
To be clear, boundaries are not ultimatums or even threats. Boundaries are not rude nor out of control. Boundaries aren’t brick walls, they don’t shut people out. Healthy boundaries are always established in love, both for you and the other person. Boundaries are where you begin and others end–and vice versa.
Here are some examples of what boundaries look like:
“That won’t work for me.”
“I’ve changed my mind.”
“I won’t be attending because when I do I don’t feel comfortable.”
“I feel attacked and manipulated, so I’ll not be involved with that any longer.”
“You can’t speak to my child that way, even if you are the coach, that won’t work. You need to respect them.”
“Your addiction is impacting our family negatively. Please get help with this. We love you and need you to be healthy.”
“That’s not okay.”
“Don’t touch me.”
“You’re not allowed to talk to me that way.”
“You’re not allowed to treat me like that, it hurts.”
“Your flirting on social media must stop.”
“I need to know the passcode on your phone.”
“That relationship needs to end because it harms our marriage and it isn’t appropriate.”
“This must change because I love you, and because I love myself too.”
“You don’t get to decide how I run my business.”
“You don’t get to decide how I raise my children.”
“If you won’t help out, you need to leave.”
“If you won’t respect our home, you can’t come over.”
“There’s too much heavy drinking going on there. I don’t want to be around that.”
“You can’t just stop by anytime you like. This causes our evening to be out of whack. Please ask first.”
“Please don’t call me and expect me to talk for a long period of time. I’ll be glad to speak to you when I’m caught up with my responsibilities for the day.”
“Private time with my spouse is important to me. You’re welcome here, but please don’t interrupt our evenings together by staying past 8pm, or by coming over every single day.”
“I will not loan you any money. The last loan I gave you, you never paid back. I work hard, and you keep taking advantage of me. This stops now.”
Boundaries are your responsibility for you, never for the other person. You cannot force someone to create their own boundaries nor respect yours, but you can create consequences–out of love–when others cross your boundaries. Boundaries do not automatically end a relationship on your part. In fact, they’re meant to bring the relationship closer, and ultimately, to strengthen it.
Boundaries are see-through fences with gates which let people in and show them out. Those gates also allow us to take out our own garbage, but we are not the garbage, nor are the boundary-crossers.
Without boundaries, it’s easy to be drained and we can easily become addicted to “fixing” others–which is impossible. Without boundaries, anxiety thrives, enabling flourishes, our self-worth is neglected, and our feelings belittled. We need boundaries, even as Christians. In my opinion, especially as Christians.
So today, my friends, know this: You are worth boundary establishments! God never called us to be martyrs, but ambassadors! (See 2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors should be strong and confident! Boundaries will help you represent Jesus in great ways by showing others your true value! Take time to talk with God about how to establish healthy boundaries. He longs to give you insight. Never allow pressure, shame, or anger from others to erase your boundaries. Never allow your feelings to be ignored! Your feelings are important! Address people with kindness as you learn to establish boundaries which are meant to help you enjoy your life! Your quality of life matters!
A prayer for you: Father, thank you for teaching me that boundaries are a good thing. For so long, I allowed completely unacceptable behavior from others due to the fact that I witnessed enabling growing up. I, myself, also crossed many boundaries through my own poor choices and attitudes. Thank you for maturing me, it’s helped so much! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of these dear people have been legalistically abused into thinking they can’t have boundaries as a Christian. They think YOU want them to allow abuse, in order to prove their humility and holiness. Reveal that these are lies. Your words in the Bible have been twisted into causing them to believe they must be constantly taken advantage of. That is, to prove their faith. Let them know this is from hell, not from you, Father. You care for your children and don’t want them hurt. Take them deeper into the truth of just how valuable they are to you–SO valuable, Jesus died for them! As they grow in understanding their immense worth, the unhealthy connections will die off, or improve, and new ones will prosper! Guide them moment by moment as they learn! In Christ’s name, amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 3. Check out my other bestselling books here!