Boundaries are Good
“How could you do this to me? Aren’t you a Christian?”
It can be hard to say “No” as a Christian. Jesus gave everything for us. How can we turn someone away after receiving such a free gift? Boundaries are good and healthy in secular life. They are just as beneficial for Christians. Though our faith is defined by giving, there are times where it can be seriously harmful to us and the person asking. In some situations, the worst thing we can do is to say “Yes”. It comes down to what our actual mission is as Christians. Is it just to give to people? Or is it to serve Jesus? Answering this question clears up much of the confusion.
Jesus gave everything for us in service to the Father. He then tells us to do the same. This encourages us to give, serve, and lay ourselves down for the good of others. It is counter-intuitive for a Christian to say “No”. Yet, there are times when our call to love and point people to Jesus compels us to refuse to do something. It is when we look at what is good for a person rather than what they ask for or feels good for us that saying “No” makes sense. God says “No” to us when things would lead us away from Him. We are called to do the same with others.
Loving someone well often involves doing the opposite of what they want. It may involve doing the last thing we want to do – say no to one who is suffering.
Love May Involve Pain
“Don’t you love me, how could you not allow me to stay”
The idea of loving selflessly is at the heart of Christian life. Jesus came and died for us out of love. He gave everything He had so that we could be saved. His love set us free. We may look at Jesus on the Cross and think this means we must always sacrifice ourselves for others. This is true too in some ways. Service is truly at the heart of our walk with Jesus. We are bondservants. But we are slaves to Jesus alone, never to other people. This is a huge distinction.
For more on bondservants read A Slave by Choice and Why am I NOT Growing in Christ? A Hard-Hitting Answer
It often seems like the Christian’s response to any problem is to give more. We must give more money, more time, more food, more bail money, and more patience to be like Jesus. Then things will get better. These actions may seem loving. They may not be. They may simply be making someone’s sin easier on them. They might even worsen the problem. God’s will is always that a person comes to Him. Our answers to others must be aligned with this goal.
For a clear example of the perils, read Avengers Infinity War and the Perils of Social Justice Gospel
Love Never Enables Sin
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
1 Corinthians 13:6
Enabling is giving someone the ability or authority to do something. This is neither positive or negative in itself. Helping someone cut their lawn is a good thing. Enabling is only problematic when we give someone the ability to do what is bad for them. Helping someone to buy drugs is a terrible thing. It is most often seen for Christians when we help another avoid the consequence of sinful choices. A person may lie, steal, or engage in addictive behavior. We cover it up, excuse it, or try to fix the problems caused by their actions without dealing with the core issue itself. It is like comforting someone while they are suffering from a curable disease and never telling them there is a cure. We provide the comfort and love of Jesus without offering His truth that will set them free.
The result is we make it easier for them to continue in a lifestyle that is killing them.
We all need to feel the weight of our sins in order to be saved. God provides correction to people for a simple reason: so they can learn. Suffering peels away the layers of self–sufficiency in even the most stubborn person. We often need to hit our rock bottom before we are willing to consider different decisions in life. For more on this, read Is God’s Discipline Good? Trusting in Our Heavenly Father
This does not mean we inflict pain in order to get people saved. This also doesn’t require us not to help suffering sinners. Jesus did that often. There would be no Cross and no salvation if Jesus did not give all to help the unworthy. We should be comforting. We must be loving. The church should always be the hospital for the sick and wounded. There also must be the truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
It simply means discernment is necessary. Grace and Truth go hand in hand. There are times when we bend over backward for a struggling brother or sister. Our loving support is keeping them fighting. There are others where our “help” is like throwing an anchor to a floundering swimmer. It may be done with the best intentions. They may be begging for it, but it only serves to pull them under.
We can say “Yes” and be a loving, serving Christian.
We also can say “No” and be a loving, serving Christian.
Always saying “Yes” to the wrong things just helps people along the road to physical and spiritual destruction. It makes the path to perdition smoother. Our goals as Christians is not an easy life. It is a life with God. For more, read What does it Mean to be a Born Again Christian?
God is Love and God has Boundaries
God is love. God has boundaries with us. The example of really helping and for saving people is God. If we want to know how to love, we should look to God – He is love after all.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day seek to bend Him to their will. They try to intimidate Jesus and manipulate Him according to their evil desires. These are classic tactics Satan uses to interfere with the work of God. If he cannot destroy a Christian witness, he can take away our free will through manipulation and fear.
In Matthew 12, they try to push Jesus into not healing a man with a withered hand. It is the Sabbath in a synagogue. The leaders set up the encounter between man’s need and their tradition. The hope is to force Jesus into not healing the man through their pressure.
What does Jesus do?
Jesus says “No” to their desires. His love for the man compels Him. He follows His Father’s will. He ignores their pressure and does what is loving. Jesus agreeing to the demands of the Pharisees would be bad for the man. It also would be terrible for the Pharisees.
Jesus also says “No” to the Rich Young Ruler. The Ruler comes and kneels before Jesus. He sets out his devotion to Jesus. He is a good man by most accounts who hears the call of God. The Rich Young Ruler offers Jesus his devotion on his terms. He wants to follow Jesus as a Rich Young Ruler not as a simple servant.
Jesus says “No”. The man must give up his riches first. This is a clear refusal to a man on his knees before Jesus. Our flesh rebels against this idea in regular life. The man is sympathetic. He seems willing and even holy. Yet, what is the truth?
The man refuses to listen to Jesus. He has the truth of God. He has the boundaries God sets out for Him. It is a very simple one. His riches are his god so he needs to get rid of them in order to actually follow God. The man also desperately needs help. He just willingly decides not to take it. That is not anyone else’s fault, just his.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:22
Jesus does not chase after the man. The Ruler is in pain. He is suffering. He needs salvation. The Ruler also refused the truth. So Jesus leaves him alone to work it out. Jesus allows the man to feel the pain with the hope that it turns him back to Jesus.
God has boundaries with people in both the Old and New Testaments. When it is good for them, God says “No”. The goal is not punishment. It is to allow their own sin and the damage it causes to change the heart that chose sin in the first place. It is like allowing the persistent child to feel a bit of the pain of a hot stove. The hope is they learn and make a better choice in the future.
God Gives Saul a Choice
Saul was the first King of Israel. He starts off with much hope and promise. He is physically gifted and spiritually blessed by God. He fights battles for the Lord with great success early on. He is handsome, blessed by God, and has unlimited potential to do great things in the world…until sin takes hold.
Saul chooses to sin. He determined to hold onto the sin and to choose it over anything else. He makes his sin an idol and turns away from God. This eventually destroys Saul. Saul goes from the mighty King of God’s people to falling on his own sword to kill himself. Saul’s death literally and symbolically came from his own choices.
It never had to end this way. God sends Saul waves of mercy and grace before he ever reaches this point. God wants Saul to return to Him and fulfill his unlimited potential. For comparison, read about David Why was David Chosen to Be King? Faith in the Lord is Everything!
God’s heart is that no man perish but have eternal life. So God sends His messenger, Samuel, to tell Saul to turn around. Samuel is the prophet of God put in place to help lead the King along God’s path. He is much like a Godly parent, sibling, friend or spouse. He is there to provide God’s guidance, love, and correction.
Samuel is like the safety bars on a carnival ride. Samuel is there to keep Saul in his proper lane. He is there to keep Saul safe. But Saul has to use them. If a person is determined those bars can be avoided and become worthless. It is impossible to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. They need to want to be healed. For more read Do You Want to Be Healed? and 33 Important Bible Verses on Healing
Yet, God does not always provide this safety blanket for Saul. There comes a point where Samuel helping Saul is not loving. The nature of the relationship changed. Saul knows he is sinning. He knows he is disobedient to God. His is aware of the call to repentance. He knows all this because Samuel tells him repeatedly. Going further with Saul is just helping his sin. It is bad for him and God has no desire to help sin along. Samuel cuts off contact with Saul as a result. He leaves him to deal with the consequences of his sin.
The hope is he will heed the clear messages and come to his senses.
The Goal is Jesus, not Comfort
There are no guarantees when it comes to those struggling with sin. It is a burden that destroys thousands every day in the world. There is also no requirement to always say “No” to others even in the most unlikely of situations. Love can also mean saying “Yes” and putting yourself out in extraordinary ways for them. I am certainly not saying we should be hard, unloving Christians. We should also never try to hurt people or induce suffering. The world does enough of that on its own.
Jesus died for the world rather than allowing us to get what we deserve.
Yet, loving well can mean not giving an inch when doing so means hurting a person’s chances of getting to Jesus. It often means allowing suffering now to avoid the eternal that is coming. Like the Rich Young Ruler, if a person knows the truth and have been given a clear way out but refuse to change, you can respect their choice. It may bring them pain. It also will encourage them to escape. It is up to them to make a choice. Until they do, we may just be making sin easy for them.
God says “No” when saying “Yes” results in sin. God says no when it is good for us. God has boundaries for the good of His people. We should always follow God’s example…even when it hurts and God certainly knows how much it hurts to lose a family member.