Boundaries and Motives
I can heartily recommend reading boundless, a christian webzine that has 4 new articles every week. The articles are well based in a biblical worldview, and often relate to issues which are very relevant today. That being said, one the articles today, 'Boundary Issues' has missed a fundamental point about boundaries and so has gotten it dangerously wrong.
Boundaries are about self-control, about being able to choose to say yes or no with right motivation. As such, boundaries are actually a manifestation of a fruit of the spirit.
The author Suzanne Hadley, writes about her decision to take in Lena, an 18 year old girl who grew up an orphan and was having serious issues. Suzanne mentions
When Lena moved in, a friend asked me how I felt about bringing fulltime ministry into my home. "How do you plan to set boundaries?" she asked. I hadn't even considered that; I only knew I was acting in obedience. I began to wonder if such boundaries even had a biblical foundation.and then continues later
Certainly we are to be stewards of our bodies, minds and spirits. Even Jesus, who gave of Himself generously during His ministry, slept when He needed rest and stole away from the crowds to spend time with His Father. Jesus knew His limits and chose wisely to maximize His ministry.
While on the surface personal boundaries seem like a good idea, the Bible doesn't wholly advocate them. Speaking of first century Christians, Luke writes: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people" (Acts 2:44-46).I have read the 'Boundaries' books she refers to. I highly recommend them. But you need to understand the point. So what is the point? Let me illustrate with a story from my past. I had a friend, Graham, who was a great guy. Graham ran his own business, and was very good at what he did. Yet at one point, one of his clients, who owed him $3000 for work he had done, refused to pay. So what did Graham do? He let the matter drop, essentially forgiving them client his debt.
"Boundaries for Early Christians" would not have been a bestseller. In fact, the early church seems to have had some significant boundary issues. Acts describes people living in community, sharing all they had, selling their stuff to give to the poor. Believers today find this concept very uncomfortable. We cherish independence and privacy. We worry about being taken advantage of or losing something we deserve. We fear being manipulated or abused by another person.
So what does this have to do with boundaries? Quite simply this. Graham was wrong. Not because of what he did, but why he did it. In Christianity, motive is of utmost importance. Graham didn't pursue the debt because he wasn't comfortable with trying to force someone to pay what they owed. It wasn't because he was filled with pity at the clients plight and so offered him grace. It wasn't because God led him to do it. Plain and simple, it was due to a character defect, a boundary issue.
This is the fundamental point of boundaries. It is impossible to do the right thing until you have good boundaries. This is true in almost every circumstance. Why? Because boundaries are foundational to our motivations. The person who can't say no because of boundary issues is actually sinning. Priorities get all screwed up. Instead of being able to properly manage your time and efforts, the lack of boundaries results in cheating the tasks or people that God wants you to focus on.
Suzanne also mentions
people who are so strict with their "boundaries" that they withhold their gifts from others, afraid that someone might take advantage of them. I've also watched people guard their time so carefully that they are rarely available to others. Some seem reluctant to ever bear another's burden lest they become "too involved."Ironically, these people have boundary issues. Remember, boundaries are about being able to have the right motivations. Right boundaries are when you accept responsibility for the things within your control and don't accept responsibility for the things out of your control. It is only when you have this control that you can give it over to God. (How can you give something to God if you don't have control of it?) Being afraid that others might take advantage of you actually means that your decision making choice is made not on the basis of the good of the other person, or whether other more important ministries will suffer, or even God's leading. The decision is instead based on fear, which is the essence of every bad boundary.
To put it another way, the automatic 'no' is just as much a boundary issue as the automatic 'yes'. Boundaries are about being able to say both 'yes' OR 'no' with godly motivation. This is the essence of why Suzanne is missing the point so badly and so her comment about the bible not wholly advocating boundaries is clearly wrong. The early church didn't have boundary issues at all, they gave of their time and possessions out of love, not out of fear. (Acts 2:44-46) More than that, the apostles set up boundaries for what their ministry should be (Acts 6:1-4), and even when the apostles were told by the pharisees to stop preaching and they said no, they were using boundaries (Acts 5:29).
To restate the issue: Boundaries are about having the self-control to say yes or no based on godly reasons. So unless you have good boundaries, you are unable to have the right motivations. Boundaries are not about always saying no, but instead are about being able to choose to say no or yes. It is a self-control (i.e. fruit of the spirit) issue.
Thanks for commenting on my article. You bring up some valid points. I would agree that exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit is the most important thing. If setting boundaries does that, great. If crossing boundaries does that, great. My point was that we need to be sensitive to the Spirit, not enslaved to man-made boundaries. I think Gal. 5:25 is the point: "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." I believe sometimes keeping in step with the Spirit requires relinquishing some personal boundaries. Still, you make some very good observations. And I didn't intend to discredit Cloud and Townsend, only misapplications of seen of their theory. God bless!Post a Comment