Thursday, July 05, 2012


The purpose of anything is of primary importance. To know that the purpose of a clock is to tell time will always help in defining whether something is actually a clock or not. A beautiful gadget, pink with flowers and large hands, as well as small ones, hanging on a wall, doth not a clock make. If it isn't telling time it may be called a clock, but you would have to use other adjectives in speaking of it also. Words like broken, no good, useless, or even, "It's pretending to be a clock," But it isn't fulfilling the purpose of a real clock.

This means the purpose of boundaries is a very important for us to know. If we know the purpose in having them it will create an awareness of when people use unflattering words when speaking of boundaries like unchristian, barriers, roadblocks, anti-scriptural, and such, they are speaking of something other than real boundaries. Some people do use those kinds of words when speaking of boundaries, and even worse. Whether their descriptive words are legitimate or not depends on the purpose for boundaries it would seem to me.

Setting boundaries in human relationships is really simply about learning to be responsible for one's own choices and feelings. In simple terms, boundaries are, "For the purpose of taking personal responsibility for my part of any relationship that I might have with another, no matter what happens to that relationship or who is involved." It is this purpose that would reveal whether a boundary is legitimate or is actually a barrier, wall, or an element of manipulation or something else.

Healthy boundaries will allow for the development of healthy relationships where we can be genuinely close but neither person is losing themselves or smothering the other person.  To lose yourself to another person is more cult-like than it is Christian and allows someone to be Lord of your life rather than Jesus being your Lord. To smother another person is to assume Lordship over them and is also cultic and not Christian.

So you can see boundaries help you know how you may have crossed an unhealthy line in doing for someone else that for which they are really responsible or the acceptance of others doing for you that for which you are really responsible. Thus, healthy boundaries can bring about healthy relationships for both whether in a marriage, parent-child, friend, work, or church membership context.

Illustrations always help me in understanding things. How about your door? The front door is a boundary. It is saying to whomever it is approaching, "This is as far as you can come without permission!" I know some people leave their door open and unlocked perhaps, but I would think that is somewhat dangerous for their family in most situations in our present society. We can argue all day that it USED to be done or that it OUGHT to be able to be done. But the fact is, it can't healthily be done in our present day and good safety be present for your family. That door also acts as a boundary if there are small children inside who need to be protected from going out into a busy street.

Were someone to take it upon themselves to come in your closed and locked door without asking permission or waiting for your invitation, it's called breaking and entering. It's a crime. I think it's a crime in relationships to act that way as well.

Now, apply this to Jesus saying to the rich young ruler what was needed in answer to his question and remember that he went away sorrowfully. Remember also that there is no indication Jesus went after him any more than Jesus went after the folks in Jerusalem when He would have gathered them to Himself but they would not. Then there is the prodigal son who had wasted all and was in the pig pen and had to come to himself without the father jumping in and cleaning up his mess for him.

The father DID NOT clean up his mess at all! He didn't even go after him!! Most parents who are always going after their kids and cleaning up their messes would describe their actions as loving actions, but the father of the prodigal would disagree. He would point out that kids need to face the consequences of their choices to be able to healthily "come to themselves" without which, true repentance will never come. True love is loving enough to not take on the responsibility that belongs to another.

I know in Luke 15 the woman swept and hunted for the coin and the Shepherd left the ninety and nine and went after the one. But the father didn't. Perhaps there is a point of healthy relationship being made here that we often do not see. I think that "perhaps" is correct.

What has just been illustrated is healthy boundaries. Remember our definition? Boundaries are for the purpose of taking personal responsibility for my part of any relationship I have with someone no matter what happens or who is involved. In the case of the rich young ruler or the prodigal son, it is not assuming their responsibility as my own. Same thing.

Some people learn this secret to good relationships in their family of origin. Some don't. They are adults before they learn. I'm in the second group. It can be painful and difficult to learn to live with healthy boundaries, but it was this that seems to reveal Jesus as never being a victim but always choosing to do what He believed was His responsibility and taking the consequences.

While we will never BE Jesus, we can BE Christ-like in our relationships and the pain and difficulty of learning such things as healthy boundaries are worth it in the long run. It's called real relationships.

Mary loves a saying she heard someone use years ago that stuck with her. I have come to love it too.  It goes this way...."You will never have a healthy relationship with anyone unless you are willing to lose that relationship." If you don't believe that statement ask the father of the prodigal. 

I believe that is part of the purpose for the freedom Adam and Eve had originally. They made a mess of what they were responsible for to be sure. But that's the reason we can have a healthy relationship with God today post-fall.

 He always enters into a relationship responsibly, if He chooses to have one, out of love, and He did, thus we have our message of the gospel. Then, when we take our responsibility of repentance and faith, if we choose to, a new healthy relationship is born. [I know and believe all the reformed theology about our willingness is by His power, but it doesn't negate our responsibility to do it at all.]  

Boundaries make for risky ventures into relationships. But pretend relationships, like pretty things that hang on a wall never telling time, won't do, if you need to know the time of day. We do need real relationships.

More next time.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


As I read your excellent words, James words," but let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation" kept coming to mind.

Before anyone clobbers me with a sarcastic comment about context ( I know you wouldn't ); I know I'm quoting out of context.

James few words brings to mind a discussion about speech and using sentences, when someone said, "Did you know "Yes!" is a complete sentence, as is "No!".

One of the areas of concern for me, is that those entrusted in church leadership, are formost in causing people to develop unhealthy boundaries when they actually take responsibility for the life of their congregations by the many subtle , and sometimes, not so subtle, legalisms which are often heard and read.

You know the ones about tithing, attending church, devotional reading,etc. ( I was a master at this trick, even though naively, until the Lord gave me a kick in the pants)

Thankfully our Sovereign God isn't like that. Imagine the scene if when God placed the onus of responsibility on Adam and Eve, if a bolt of lightning had zapped them every time they approached the tree.

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