Boundaries: What They Are and Are Not

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In the physical world, boundaries are easy to see. Fences, signs, walls, moats with alligators, manicured lawns, or hedges are all physical boundaries. In their differing appearances, they give the same message: “This is where my property begins.” The owner of the property is legally responsible for what happens on his or her property. Non-owners are not responsible for the property.

Physical boundaries mark a visible property line that someone holds the deed to. You can go to the county courthouse and find out exactly where those boundaries of responsibility are and whom to call if you have business there.

In the spiritual world, boundaries are just as real, but often harder to see. Our goal is to help you define your intangible boundaries and to recognize them as an ever-present reality that can increase your love and save your life. In reality, these boundaries define your soul, and they help you to guard it and maintain it.

Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out.

Sometimes, we have bad on the inside and good on the outside. In these instances, we need to be able to open up our boundaries to let the good in and the bad out. In other words, our fences need gates in them. For example, if I find that I have some pain or sin within, I need to open up and communicate it to God and others, so that I can be healed. Confessing pain and sin helps to “get it out” so that it does not continue to poison me on the inside.

Boundaries are GatesAnd when the good is on the outside, we need to open our gates and “let it in.” Other people have good things to give us, and we need to “open up to them.” Often we will close our boundaries to good things from others, staying in a state of deprivation.

In short, boundaries are NOT walls. The Bible does not say that we are to be “walled off” from others; in fact, it says that we are to be “one” with them (see John 17:11). We are to be in community with them. But in every community, all members have their own space and property. The important thing is that property lines be permeable enough to allow the passing of good things and strong enough to keep out danger.

The concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. God defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and he is responsible for himself. He defines and takes responsibility for his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes.

He also defines himself as separate from his creation and from us. He differentiates himself from others. He tells us who he is and who he is not. For example, he says that he is love and that he is not darkness (1 John 4:16).

In addition, he has boundaries within the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one, but at the same time they are distinct persons with their own boundaries. Each one has his own personhood and responsibilities, as well as a connection and love for one another (John 17:24).

God also limits what he will allow in his yard. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behavior. He guards his house and will not allow evil things to go on there. He invites people in who will love him, and he lets his love flow outward to them at the same time.

The “gates” of his boundaries open and close appropriately. In the same way he gave us his “likeness,” (Genesis 1:26), he gave us personal responsibility within limits. He wants us to be responsible stewards over the life he has given us. To do that, we need to develop boundaries like God’s.

Take the next step. Read Boundaries and discover the life-long benefits of learning when to say yes and how to say no.

 

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