Is it really necessary to set boundaries with “bad” people? Why draw the line if we’re their only hope to help them repent or change their ways? In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, the Apostle Paul answers this perplexing question:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or a sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.
The Bible contains admonitions for us to separate ourselves from fellow Christians who act in destructive ways (see Matthew 18:15 – 17; 1 Corinthians 5:9 – 13). If we do this, we are not being unloving. Separating ourselves protects love because we are taking a stand against things that destroy love.
We really can’t set limits “on” others — in that we cannot control them. What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave correctly.
Our model is God. He does not set limits on people to force them to behave. God sets standards for people to follow, but people have the freedom to obey or disobey. If they choose to disobey, God allows them to suffer the consequences, but as we see in this passage, God does not give up on those who have failed. Heaven is a place for the repentant, and all are welcome.
Find more insightful commentary from Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, read the NIV Life Journey Bible, which combines the world’s most accessible Bible translation with exclusive boundaries teaching.