This morning, we’re continuing our message series that will serve as a guide to healthy relationships. A relationship is simply a connection between two people. Just because two people are connected, that doesn’t make it a good connection nor a healthy connection nor a connection that should even be there.
Relationships can be difficult and so God has given us a whole host of tools that we can use to make them function the way that He intended them to. So far, we learned about the love of God and understanding. This week, we gain another tool that can radically transform our relationships with others to make them healthy.
The relationship tool that we’re learning about today is boundaries. Now to understand boundaries, we can go all the way back to the beginning before the human race even existed.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.”
God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear. (He separated them)” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”
God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.” God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
God created by separating. God created boundaries. He said that they were very good.
Then, God created Adam and Eve and He said:
That is why a man separates from his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Matthew 19:6/Mark 10:9
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.
God again created by separating. God created boundaries.
2 Corinthians 6:14;17
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.
God creates by separating. God created boundaries. God did this all in the very beginning and He said that it is all very good. Boundaries are a good and healthy thing. Yes, they separate and divide and they do so intentionally and purposefully.
God created boundaries within His creation so that the connections between things could be good and healthy. Like the ocean beach or the sunrise or sunset or the moon and stars on a clear night. We can experience all of these things only because boundaries were created by God.
We recently seen what happens when the ocean waters are forced beyond their intended boundary by a hurricane. It’s not good. It’s destructive. People get hurt and even die. The same thing happens in our lives when healthy boundaries are not created and maintained!
We started at the beginning. For time’s sake, let’s skip to the end.
Heaven, the new Jerusalem, has twelve walls of jasper built on foundations decorated with every kind of precious stone. Within the twelve walls are twelve gates each made of a single pearl.
Walls that separate. God created boundaries. For all eternity, even within Heaven, itself, there will be boundaries. Boundaries are a good thing. The only ones who do not understand and appreciate and honor boundaries in our lives are people who do not have our good in mind.
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. Anyone who does not enter by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.
Let both the wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First separate and collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
God separates. God creates boundaries. Boundaries are a good thing! Not only will people be separated on the day of judgment to enter into their eternal destination of heaven or hell, but Jesus warned us of this heart-piercing reality that impacts us now:
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
What is the intended purpose of a sword? It separates. Sometimes your head from your body. In the case of God’s sword, it intends to separate what is good from what is bad, what is right from what is wrong, what is of God from that which is not of God, the very thoughts and attitudes of our hearts!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Jesus came to be a sword that separates. Jesus goes on:
35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Jesus was quoting:
4 The day God visits you has come,
the day your watchmen sound the alarm.
Now is the time of your confusion.
5 Do not trust a neighbor;
put no confidence in a friend.
Even with the woman who lies in your embrace
guard the words of your lips.
6 For a son dishonors his father,
a daughter rises up against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.
Now this is a really difficult and hard teaching. It is one that many teachers and preachers have watered down and softened; myself included. Jesus said what He said and meant what He meant, though.
We all want to cling to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, pictured as the soft and gentle man with a lamb held lovingly in His arm or surrounded by the little children. However, Jesus is the Lamb that was slain AND ALSO the Lion of Judah. When Jesus appeared to John, John described Him this way:
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS
Jesus is both the Lion of Judah and the Lamb who was slain and so much more! He is Prince of Peace and also Judge and also War Wager and also the only one found worthy in all of creation to one day break the seven seals and open the scroll that unfurls the wrath of God.
I do not at all believe that it is the heart of God nor the will of God that families and neighbors and spouses and friends be divided and to not trust one another. However, in this world corrupted by sin, it is simply a reality that happens when someone chooses to follow Jesus. A separation occurs.
When anyone chooses to follow Jesus, to place God first in their lives, divisions take place. Not everyone is going to agree with that decision and the reality of our relationships begin to be revealed. As we become a new creation, our connections with others (relationships) are changed as well. It is simply a reality.
Boundaries are safeguards that we intentionally and purposefully choose to put in place in our lives.
The yellow line painted down the center of a road is a boundary to safeguard us. When someone crosses that boundary, head-on collisions take place that wreck many lives.
The PVC or copper pipes that bring water into our homes is a boundary that provides life-sustaining sustenance to us. When there is even the smallest of leaks in it, when their boundary is crossed, major damage is caused.
A river’s bank is a boundary that keeps water flowing safely out eventually to the ocean. When the river surges and runs over its banks, when their boundary is crossed, destruction takes place.
A fence runs along the edge of a steep cliff as a boundary to keep people from accidentally walking over it. When someone climbs it and jumps over, crossed that boundary, their landing doesn’t end well for them.
Our arteries and veins carry blood that carry oxygen and nutrients and waste to where they need to be throughout our bodies and have a boundary around them. If they get closed off or punctured open, the result can be deadly.
Boundaries are good and healthy and Godly when created and maintained properly. We need them in our relationships with others!
Think of your life as a house. A house has many different boundaries. Anyone is welcome to drive on the public road past your house. Vehicles travel it all of the time and you don’t think about them at all.
You’re a bit more curious of and concerned when one of those vehicles cross the public round boundary and pull into your driveway. You might invite some strangers through your front door and into your living room. Only friends are welcomed beyond your living room into your dining room and kitchen as you entertain them. However, only you and your spouse are welcomed into your bedroom.
There are intentional and purposeful boundaries in place. If a stranger decides to pull into your driveway, break open the front door and barge into your bedroom in the middle of the night, you’re not going to just welcome them with open arms, right? You might welcome them with the barrel of a shotgun and some choice words.
Why? Because they crossed boundaries that you put in place. You are communicating to them that they crossed them. You are putting them back out to where they belong in your life.
Having healthy relationships requires us to create, communicate, and maintain boundaries in our lives.
Many of our relationship issues are caused by boundary issues. Sometimes we have too firm of boundaries put in place and we let no one in. Far more often, however, we have no boundaries at all.
The interesting thing is that God created within us alarm systems to detect when a boundary should be in place and has been crossed. We feel when we’ve been invaded, but it is up to us to put a boundary there and communicate that it is there to others and to usher people back where they belong when they cross it.
For example, maybe we have a loved one that keeps making really bad life decisions for themselves. Maybe they’re caught up in an addiction. We spend ourselves to keep cleaning up their messes and to continue providing for them and defending them because we think that is loving them. However, they never change. Their bad decisions seem to destroy your own life and relationship with them, but they seem to be fine.
Boundaries need put in place so that their choices affect their own lives. If they never feel the awful consequences for their own choices, they’ll never see the need to change.
Many times, we fail to set healthy boundaries in our lives because of fear.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
We fear that people will get angry with us.
We fear that we will let someone down.
We fear that we will end up alone.
We fear that others will think bad things about us.
We fear that others won’t approve of us.
As a result of our fear of man, we allow others to control our lives. We do things that we don’t really want to do. We do things that we really shouldn’t do. Our motivation for keeping a relationship with others becomes fear or guilt and not love.
Our motivation for doing anything in life should be the love of God toward others through faith. We already learned from 1 Corinthians 13 that whatever we do that is not from a motive of love is a waste of time. Paul also teaches that:
Each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. The kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Everything that does not come from faith is sin. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Boundaries take an effort on our part. However, boundaries prevent us from becoming a stumbling block to others. It’s easy to trip over a stone or brick because you’re not aware that it is there. That’s what we tend to do without boundaries. When we eventually get frustrated or hurt enough, we thrown down a brick in front of others.
If we create a boundary, they will see that wall in our lives and know and understand not to cross it. It won’t be a tripping hazard to them that comes out of nowhere, they will know about it ahead of time. It will also be more permanent so that everyone knows where that boundary is. It won’t change based on what your mood is at the moment.
Creating healthy boundaries in our relationships leads to peace and mutual edification. In fact, chaos in our lives is typically a red flag that indicates that we have a boundary issue.
Consider your child who forgot until the night before a school project is due that they need a whole list of supplies. Their lack of planning becomes your emergency.
If this is the first time and they made a mistake, sure, run to the store and grab what they need. However, if this becomes a trend, then a boundary might need to be put in place that makes their lack of planning their own emergency.
Sometimes, the most loving thing to do is to let someone fail at the hand of their own choices. This grows and matures their character and teaches them to make better choices in the future. If mom and dad always drop everything to run to the store and work into the wee hours of the morning to complete school projects, then why should they change their behavior?
This isn’t love, this is enabling a bad habit. A better boundary needs put into place so that the negative result of other’s poor choices is felt by them and not consumed by us.
It might be an elementary school project now, but what about getting picked up from high school practices, then bills that are way behind, then lost jobs because they don’t show up to work on time, and so on. A little discipline early in life leads to a full and abundant life later on. It is an expression of love that empowers them!
2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
5 …“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Healthy boundaries are not just a discipline early on in life, but one that we are learning and growing in all throughout our lives. As people build relationship with us and earn our trust, we give them more access into our lives. As people abuse access that they have in our lives, we move the boundary to give them less access to our lives.
This is how we make the effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification, through healthy, intentional boundaries.
Join us next week to learn how to practically create a boundary in a relationship, communicate it, and maintain it.