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Do you have trouble setting boundaries with others? Do you say “yes” when you know you really should be saying “no” to someone? What about drawing lines for your own health? If you refuse to “bail out” a friend, are you being a good Christian?
If you’re like most people, you probably struggle at times with setting boundaries for yourself and with others. I’ve been teaching the Ladies Bible Class on Wednesday night and that is the topic we’ve been addressing, so I wanted to share a little bit about what we’ve discovered.
Conflict with others and within ourselves is inevitable, and Jesus is the perfect example in all things–including setting boundaries. Think of yourself as a beautiful flower at the center of a garden. There is a fence around the garden. That fence is a boundary. What do you allow to come inside your garden? Do you let people force their way in? Sneak in the back door? Do you let bad habits grow like weeds?
I know I don’t always protect my garden. When everyone wants something from me, I give until I have nothing left. Jesus didn’t do that. As the perfect example in everything, taking a look at how he set boundaries it vital. I’d never looked at this side of Jesus and I found it fascinating.
Let’s take a look at Jesus’ example.
- Jesus took care of His basic needs–rest, food, lots of walking. (Matt. 4:6-7, 26:18, John 12:2)
- He sought support from friends when He needed it. (Matt. 26:36-38)
- On more than one occasion, He withdrew from the crowds to be alone or to be with a select group of friends.
- He knew He couldn’t be in two places at once. He had a singular focus about his mission on earth. (Mark 1:38)
- He took control of the pace of His life. He never told the apostles to hurry. (John 11:6, Mark 10:32)
- Jesus abandoned control of outcomes. He spoke the truth in love to those around Him, but He let the choice of what the listeners did with the information belong to them.
- He withdrew from crowds of hurting people (the demands of the world) for one-on-one time with the Father. (Luke 5:15-16)
- He did not allow others to abuse Him, except when He willing chose to go the cross. When one crowd wanted to throw him off a cliff, He slipped through the crowd and left. (Luke 4:28-30)
- He was aware of the manipulation of others, even Peter. (Matt. 16:23) He said “no” to those who felt they were entitled (Matt. 12:46-50), who asked baiting questions (Matt. 21:15-22), and who were cynical (Luke 23:8-9).
- He always confronted exploitation (John 2:13-16), and addiction (Matt. 19:16-21), and educated the misguided (Matt. 19:13-15).
- Jesus valued personal prayer time. (Matt. 6:6)
- He told us to be honest and direct. He said to let our “yes be yes” and our “no be no”. (Matt. 5:37)
- He taught us to set our priorities. (Luke 16:13)
And perhaps more than anything, Jesus taught that we should please God, not people. (John 5:44) When dealing with those around us, like Jesus, we must love their soul enough to say the hard truths at times. We must love sincerely, and take responsibility for our own actions.
Jesus was the perfect example of love and limits, grace and righteousness, mercy and justice. When we set boundaries for ourselves and others, we are showing the world the true nature of God and we are being both salt and light.
Why do you think it is so hard for us to set boundaries for ourselves or with others? In what area do you struggle most? Which of Jesus’ examples above surprised you most?