Boundaries: What Part of NO Don't You Understand?
"Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves."1
A Daily Encounter reader writes in response to one of our messages on being peacemakers: "As you know, meaningful relationships require boundaries. Sometimes this means letting the other person know you are offended even if they do not react the way you might wish. At times keeping your boundaries may even mean terminating an unhealthy relationship.
"But what about when the relationship is one you cannot terminate, say with a parent, spouse, or other family member who is also a Christian? I am not speaking of blatant abuse situations but the gray areas in which a lot of people, including myself, often find ourselves. What about when parents have deep unresolved anger and hurt which they will not confront and resolve, so they wind up projecting it onto their children—including their adult children?
"So where is the line? How do you honor your parents and keep your boundaries?"
True, the Bible does say we are to honor and obey our parents, but it never says that we are to accept everything they, or anybody else, do to us, or ask us to do.
Meekness isn't weakness. Jesus, of course, is the prime example of one who had healthy boundaries. He didn't allow anyone to do anything to him without his permission, nor did he always meet the expectations of his parents. And he always confronted evil and wrongdoing.
So, while we are also told in the Bible to obey our parents and our leaders, when they, or anyone else, are abusive, evil, or do wrong, the higher law for us to follow is the law of God—and that is always to do the right thing. At times this will require tough love and saying "no" to anyone who would mistreat or abuse us, and who are being boundary busters with us.
When Peter and the other apostles were commanded by the religious leaders not to preach about Jesus, Peter said, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). And they kept preaching.
And think how Jesus handled the religious Pharisees and those who abused the house of God (the temple) and were ripping off the poor. He drove them out of the temple with a whip and called them a brood of vipers!
If we ask ourselves the question, "What would Jesus do?" in every situation in which we find ourselves and could discern the correct answer, we would know what to do. And then we would need to ask him for the courage to help us to do it.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for Jesus who is the prime example for us to follow in every situation . . . whether warm and compassionate or angry at evil. Please help me to know what you would do in every confusing situation in which I find myself—and please give me the courage to do that without being controlled by false guilt or what others might think of me. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Jesus in Matthew 21:12 (NIV).