We as Christians, and I am just as guilty of this, are great at building barriers.
We as Christians, and I am just as guilty of this, are terrible at setting boundaries.
The Bible starts with God teaching Adam and Eve about ownership. Look at Genesis 1:28, for example:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
If we are created in God’s image, would it not stand to reason that we are created to take responsibility for certain things? Taking ownership of something means that we need to know what is and what is not our “job.” It takes sincere wisdom to discern that.
For many Christians, the desire to do the right thing, or even steer clear of conflict, means taking on extra issues that God never intended for you. If there is any confusion in the responsibility and ownership in life then there is a problem with boundaries.
Think about it. Homeowners set lines around their property to designate what is their responsibility and what is not. Just like the property lines around your house, you need to ensure there are mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries in place in your life.
Christians are terrible at setting boundaries. As I said, I, too, struggle with it. Do any of these questions sound familiar when you are debating on what to take ownership of?
· How can I still be a loving person if I set a limit?
· What would be considered a legitimate boundary?
· What if I make someone angry by my boundary?
· How do I tell someone no?
· Why do I feel guilty when I set a boundary?
· Aren’t boundaries selfish?
We as Christians feel guilty if we assert ourselves, feeling as if we are not doing what God has told us. We have heard the biblical misconceptions and assume that being assertive is not Christian behavior.
When people sign up for assertiveness training, one of the goals is to encourage people to express their convictions honestly with each other. This does not mean putting the other person down, but it does mean approaching with empathy and compassion but stating what your responsibility and conviction is.
Ephesians 4:15 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
In Ephesians 4:15 Paul calls for Christians to be assertive.
Another aim of assertiveness training is to “own your life.” How can we “own” something that is not ours? This clearly goes against the Bible, right?
Not when looked at in a Biblical light.
1 Corinthians 9:19 – Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
Paul plainly states that, because of his freedom in Christ, he has chosen to dedicate his life to others. Because of his freedom, he can make the choice to sacrifice his life for others.
Jesus, Himself, had a very strong sense of identity. Whether he was washing the disciples’ feet in John 13:4-5 or preaching about turning the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, it is clear that we must have control over our own lives as Christians.
Matthew 5:38-42 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Many Christians, including myself, have taken this Scripture to mean we should be a doormat. But that is far from the truth. In this Scripture He is telling us about double compliance. In double compliance, when we are treated wrongly and used, because of our desire to take control of the unjust situation and the fact that we know the Holy Spirit is in control, we are to do double the amount.
When looking at it in this way, we are being called to take control of an unjust situation. This is profoundly assertive to what Christ taught. When doing this, you have made the choice to assert your responsibility. It also does two other things: First, it shows the other person that I will not let them manipulate me and second, it shames them for taking advantage of me in the first place.
What is freeing here is that if turning the other cheek has no redemptive value or my performing the action will cause harm to someone that I am not expected to respond in that way. For example, in the Russian Revolution, I believe that the Mennonite men who stood by and watched as their women and children were raped and killed by the soldiers completely misunderstood the intent of turning the other cheek. We as Christians cannot sit idly by and let injustice rule because we feel we should turn the other cheek.
Also, Jesus gave the command of turning the other cheek to His disciples, not to everyone he met. The disciples were at a point in their spiritual growth where denying their own self is the right choice to be made. The disciples had already asserted their spiritual self and were ready for the self-denial that accompanies being a disciple of Christ. Immature Christians and those who are young in the faith may not be ready for that part of their walk.
Proverbs 17:15 – He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
I also believe that there are limits to what Jesus would expect from us in self-denial. He tells us to go the second mile, not a third or a fourth or more. Many Christians continue (and I have found myself in this boat many times) feel that they are to simply be rolled over in order to fulfill the requirements of meekness. It goes along with the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” If we allow ourselves to continually be taken advantage of without ensuring that the other person is being evangelized or ministered to then we run the risk of allowing injustice to happen freely, when we are called to stop injustice in the world.
As I write this, I realize my own personal issues with boundaries. Some of which I correcting in the very near future in my career status. Others I will need to work on over time such as with my kids, my ex-wife, my girlfriend, and even church needs. It is a constant growing journey that we take. But it is only because of Jesus on the cross that we can take that journey at all.
It is only because He came to earth as a child in a manger that we have a Savior who can bring us closer to righteousness by crediting His righteousness on us. This is the amazing part, people. Christ came to earth a child and grew to be a man. As a man, we credited Him with all of our sin so that He could credit us with His righteousness. He became sin (did NOT become a sinner though!) so that we may be righteous.
If you get nothing else this Christmas season get this. Christ came to save YOU. you. Say softly to yourself, “Christ came for me.” It personalizes it, doesn’t it?
All this talk of boundaries is simply talk and trying to improve each of our own Christian walks. But it isn’t until you take that step toward Christ and say, “God, come into my life. I am sorry for the way I have sinned against You and I believe that You are the only One who can take that sin away from me. I trust you with my life, Lord Jesus. Forgive me.”
If you prayed that for the first time, please send me a note. Praying that for the first time will mean that this Christmas will be THE best Christmas ever for you because now you finally understand what it is about.
I pray you peace and love throughout Christmas.
Isaiah 53:5 – But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.