What does the Bible say about boundaries?
There is this funny guy on TikTok who lets his followers choose what he does next. One of his followers requested that he asked strangers if he could take a shower in their house. The following video was of this guy wandering around a neighborhood until finally, someone said yes. When he finally got this couple to say yes to his weird request and made a viral video out of it, the wide array of comments started.
Some people were shocked that the people let him inside. Others were confident had he knocked on their door they would have welcomed him in, and even invited him to stay for dinner. The comments were all asking the same question; did these people who welcomed this guy in make the right choice, or was it unwise? Should there have been a boundary?
Boundaries have become almost a buzzword on the internet lately. There are so many people advocating for boundaries right now, maybe because it’s something that we just aren’t that good at.
The person who best demonstrated boundaries was Jesus. He had clear boundaries with people in His life, and throughout the Bible we can see why boundaries are important, and even which boundaries are important.
What does the bible say about boundaries?
God sets boundaries for us
The most obvious way the Bible puts boundaries on display is almost so obvious that it’s easy to miss. God set the world in motion with boundaries. There is a law or a rule that the world follows. In the very beginning, God started by creating boundaries.
“And 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” (Genesis 1:3-4).
He set boundaries for day and night, and for land and water. He also set boundaries for us. He told us what we had rule over (Genesis 1:29) and what to eat and what not to eat (Genesis 2:16-17).
Later in scripture, God governs His people and shows us how boundaries are meant to protect us and invite us into healthy relationships with Him and with one another.
“God’s story gives us clarity by showing us the boundaries that He has provided as a protection for women, children, and all in society. In the law God provides those boundaries for Israel as a community. The ceremonial boundaries taught them God’s holiness. The moral boundaries taught them God’s righteousness. The social/civil boundaries taught them the value of all in the nation.” (Chronological Bible Teaching)
Jesus demonstrates boundaries
Jesus also clearly demonstrated boundaries throughout His life on earth. He often set boundaries by showing us that He needed to go and be alone at times. We read, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Some conversations are meant to only happen between us and God.
Others, we see can happen with trusted friends, but Jesus was cautious with His relational boundaries. He had varying levels of trust with different people. He also didn’t just give anything to anyone who asked.
There can be a culture of shame around saying “no” and wondering if it’s unkind or unloving to set boundaries with people. However, the Son of God wasn’t just a “yes” man. He was intentional in everything He did.
A story that particularly catches my attention is when Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha are frustrated with Him for not coming when they asked because Lazarus had died. This story is taught so many ways, but what I notice is how intense this interpersonal conflict is.
If I really needed a friend, I would be so upset if they didn’t show up for me when I asked. But Jesus honored His own boundary. “So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days” (John 11:6) and showed up when He could. He didn’t let some of his friends demand Him to go back on his boundary and change his mind, even in a time of crisis.
Instead, He came when He could. He didn’t apologize for His boundaries, He set boundaries lovingly and intentionally and we have the freedom to do so as well.
Sanctification requires boundaries
To become more Christlike we have to set boundaries. We start to sense the Holy Spirit convicting us as we pursue lives with greater holiness. We stop watching that T.V. show, we cringe at certain language or at comments that are full of mindsets that don’t reflect the heart of God. We sense needing to spend less time with certain people, and we start to care more deeply for those who God reveals His heart for to us.
Romans 8:5-6 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
As Christians, we have a new set of boundaries to put in place for our own actions and thoughts. We are told to think about, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
God set up our world with boundaries, Jesus modeled boundaries for us throughout His life, and we are encouraged to continue setting relational and personal boundaries to pursue a life governed by the Spirit.