A healthy person sets boundaries – physical and emotional “no trespassing” lines. Boundaries are essential for a healthy self-esteem. There also spiritual boundaries necessary for a healthy spiritual life. How do I go about setting and living out my faith boundaries?
Jesus and Faith Boundaries
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? … whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50).
Jesus set boundaries for himself and his disciples.
When he sent them out into the villages to preach he gave them a specific set of rules by which they were to do their work (Matt. 10:6-14). This set of rules was meant to protect them and distinguish them for other spiritual gurus.
When the Pharisees attacked Jesus’ character, he defended himself sharply with confidence in who he was (Mark 3:26). He unashamedly appealed to his intimate connection to the Father (John 8:18). Even when they scoffed or attempted to physically harm him, he stood strong (Luke 4:30).
When even his own family attempted to cross and disrupt his boundaries – his teachings and community – he didn’t allow it (Matt. 12:48-50).
Jesus knew how to set boundaries.
Daniel and Setting Boundaries in a Foreign Culture
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way” (Daniel 1:8).
Daniel found himself in a difficult situation. In 587 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and began to export the brightest and best of the Land to Babylon. He conscripted them into a leadership training program that would indoctrinate them into the Babylonian culture and then use them to expand his empirical agenda.
The easiest way to think about a boundary is a property line. We have all seen “No Trespassing” signs, which send a clear message that if you violate that boundary, there will be a consequence.
A lack of boundaries opens the door for others to determine your thoughts, feelings, and needs. Defining boundaries is a process of determining what behavior you will accept from others and what you will not. Boundaries include physical boundaries, as well as, emotional boundaries.
How to Set and Live by Your Boundaries
Boundaries can be too rigid and too loose. But we all need them. In fact, we can never be who we are created to be, without boundaries. Here’s what we learn from the way Daniel set and lived by his fiath boundaries.
1. Daniel carefully chose his boundaries.
Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day” (Daniel 6:13).
Having lost the temple sacrificial system in Jerusalem, there were only a few things that Daniel could do that would distinguish him from the polytheistic culture that surrounded him. He could no longer offer sacrifices. But, he could still pray. He could still keep the Sabbath holy. And, he could still follow the Jewish dietary laws. These were a lifeline for him to his faith.
So, you have to decide – what makes you different, set apart? And then you don’t let anyone tempt you away from that.
You may decide it is to love unconditionally or without discrimination – and there could be friends, family members, even other Christians who might try to deter you from that. When you set your boundaries and stay true to them you often get hit from all sides.
Daniel had decided long before the crisis that this one thing he could not betray. He thoughtfully and carefully set his boundaries before the crisis.
2. Daniel explained his boundaries with grace.
Daniel goes to his supervisor and calmly explains his situation. His supervisor wants to help him, but explains that he could get into big trouble if he makes this exception. Daniel offers a solution that will spare the supervisor any harm or turmoil.
This exchange between two men of very different cultures is stunning in its tone. It is calm, reasoned, amicable, respectful. Daniel respects the one who has been placed in authority over him. In return, the supervisor is genuinely sympathetic to Daniel’s dilemma.
It’s not always possible – but when proclaiming spiritual boundaries based on firm convictions of faith we should always lead with love and grace and kindness.
There are far too many Christians who start every controversial conversation with anger. They are screaming their convictions in a way that betrays the character and tone of the very Savior they proclaim to serve.
Daniel never seemed to raise his voice. He calmly, but firmly refused to defy his boundaries.
God has said, “Be holy as I am holy” (Lev. 11:45; 1 Peter 1:15-16). To be holy means to be “set apart,” or “different.”
There are too many angry people out there – too many red-faced shouts of convictions. God calls us to be different, “set apart” from the acrimonious rantings of others.
It starts when you express the convictions of your faith and your spiritual boundaries with love and grace and kindness.
3. Daniel let God fight his battles for him.
The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (Daniel 6:16).
Daniel is able to stay calm about his convictions because he knows that it’s best to let God fight the battles. Daniel simply offers a test – let’s do it both ways – the Babylonian way and God’s way, and see which works better.
Angry words never convinced anyone of the truth of God. Try living it out.
Daniel said, let me live out my faith and you can judge the results. Words are always suspect. Results are irrefutable.
I’d rather see a sermon
than hear one any day.
I’d rather you walk with me
than merely point the way.
The eye is a more-ready pupil
than ever was the ear.
Good advice is often confusing
but example is always clear.
Calmly and gracefully hold firm to your convictions, but always let God fight your battles.
4. Daniel brought glory to God.
I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (Daniel 6:26).
Daniel’s dietary crisis was not the last time he would find himself in trouble because of his faith-based boundaries.
Daniel got into trouble for praying to God. King Nebuchadnezzar had issued an ill-advised decree that deified himself – everyone in the empire was commanded to pray to no other god but Nebuchadnezzar.
This was another direct violation of Daniel’s boundaries. He refused. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to die a Lion’s den. Daniel quietly accepted his fate, no matter how utterly unjust it was. King Nebuchadnezzar seemed to understand. He told Daniel – My hands are tied – I have to throw you into the Lion’s den – But, sure hope you know what you are doing – I hope this God that you continually serve will rescue from the lions (Daniel 6:16).
And, of course, God does. God fights Daniel’s battle for him. And in so doing, God gets all the honor and glory.
After God saves Daniel from the Lion’s Den, the King praises Daniel’s God and issues a decree that everyone is to respect Daniel’s God because He is the One who truly saves (Daniel 6:26-27).
This battle was never about Daniel. It was about God and HIS Glory.
I can’t emphasize this enough –
Whatever spiritual boundaries you set for your life – and no matter how you decide to express them – it all means nothing if the motivation is not to bring honor and glory to God.
The motivation must not be –
- For my name to be vindicated.
- For my reputation to be restored.
- For me to be proven right.
- For my side to win.
- For me to get my way.
THE MOTIVE MUST ALWAYS BE GOD’S GLORY!!
Living to bring honor and glory to God is the only contextual framework that gives meaning to your spiritual boundaries. Anything else is vanity and meaningless (Eccl. 12:8).
I pray that God will guide you as you carefully and thoughtfully build your faith boundaries and then seek to live them out with grace and strength!