What are you willing to do—and not do? Where do you draw the line? Why is it important to set boundaries and keep them?
I believe part of the reason setting lines and boundaries is important is that it helps us—and our children—know what to expect and how far to go. It prepares us to say no when necessary—and yes when expedient. Boundaries help us to visualize our own limitations and better be able to work within them.
Let me give you a few examples for clarification.*
- Bobby knows his mother has said that he may not do sleepovers. She told him that it was a family preference, and that she and his father had decided together that this would be a policy for their family. Andrew asks Bobby to stay for the weekend at his home. Bobby knows he doesn’t even have to ask his parents, since he already knows the family rule. He tells Andrew, “Thanks, but my folks don’t let us do sleepovers.”
- Daniel is a forty-year-old man. He's checking his favorite online news outlet and scrolls down, seeing several enticing articles featuring scantily clad women. He chooses to scroll back up to the news and not to even view the titles at the bottom of the page again. Why? Daniel is committed to keeping his mind pure. He knows that if he slips once, pornographic material—even soft porn—will not help him to focus his mind on pure relationships, and especially on Christ. Daniel decided on this biblical boundary way before seeing the photos at the bottom of the news page: I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (Job 31:1)
- Marcia is on a shopping trip with a group of girlfriends. They pause for cold drinks in the mall’s food court. Sitting around the table, one of Marcia’s friends begins to tell some stories about another woman who’s not at the table. They’re not nice stories, and soon, other women are adding their comments and laughing. Marcia recognizes this as gossip, and she bravely says, “I think we need to change the subject. It isn’t right to talk about another person this way.” All eyes focus on her, and Marcia’s face turns red, but she stands her ground. The conversation changes to happier topics, and the atmosphere becomes comfortable again.
- John and Brenda have been dating for a few months. They sit down and talk about physical contact before marriage and how far they want to go. They decide that they want to save their first kiss for marriage, and that holding hands and side hugs are all they want to do before becoming husband and wife. John and Brenda don’t make it public, but they agree together that setting this boundary beforehand will keep them from temptation later. When several months pass and they are deeply in love, they know they made a wise decision. How they wanted each other! But, passion would wait a few months—until she walked down the aisle in her dazzling white gown and gave herself to this wonderful man, who respects her enough to save physical love for later.
Bobby, Daniel, Marcia, John, and Brenda knew their limits. They had boundaries that were based on parental authority, a commitment to purity, and obeying God about not gossiping. Ahead of time, each of these individuals had made a decision about boundaries. In Bobby’s case, his parents put the boundary in his life for him, and he chose to honor it.
Setting boundaries is a biblical concept.
- I have hated the congregation of evildoers; and will not sit with the wicked (Psalm 26:5).
- Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely (Psalm 58:5).
- I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy Word (Psalm 119:16).
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up (Daniel 3:18).
- Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof (Romans 6:12).
- Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men (Titus 3:1-2).
When we make up our minds to be obedient to the Bible and to set personal boundaries according to God’s guidelines, we help ourselves to deal with temptation. That’s what the armor of God is all about:
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth,
and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith,
wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,
and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
*These are completely fictional scenarios based on true-life dilemmas.