I have had some interesting conversations lately with various people about two different topics and yet as I have thought through these topics I realize they go hand-in-hand: grace and boundaries. In our Christian community, many struggle with when to say “no” and when to say “yes.” There are so many worthy causes and worthy ministries that we can devote our time to. There are so many people that are pulling at us, and yet at the same time we are in essence pulling on ourselves. We feel overwhelmed with too many responsibilities or feel guilty by not helping a friend in need. When we have a disagreement with family or friend, we struggle with do I give grace or do I stand up for myself. We interact with various people that have well placed yet flexible boundaries, others who have rigid boundaries, and still others with no boundaries at all. What is the answer? We must look at Jesus and the principles He established while on earth to guide us through this maze.
Questions or observations from the life of Christ while on earth to help us evaluate grace and boundaries:
- Is it sin? John 8:1-11 tells of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus did not condemn her, but He rebuked her and told her “go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 1:11). When someone is sinning we condemn or we gossip or we judge. Jesus did not lecture her, nor did He yell at her. His tone from the text is one of love and compassion.
- Does the intrusion cause us to not spend time daily with God in His Word and in prayer? Luke 5:15, 16 finds Jesus ministering to many “But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” No matter the demands of our lives, if we do not take the time to spend with the Father in prayer and Bible reading then we have said “yes” to too many things. We must plan for our quiet time each day and not let anything get in the way of this. Maybe we need to go to bed earlier or get up earlier or turn our phones off…whatever we need to do must be done so this time becomes special and never missed in our day.
- Jesus was never in a rush. If our lives are characterized by being in a rush than we have again overcommitted. Maybe we need to delegate small tasks to our children to help us have more time to accomplish the tasks we need to do. Jesus delegated to the disciples to find bread in the feeding of the 5,000. He delegated to the disciples to find the donkey that would be ridden for the Triumphal entry. One of my favorite stories is the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:43-48. Jesus was on His way to heal Jairus’s daughter. He was an important man with a dying twelve year old daughter. This constitutes an emergency, but Jesus stopped and talked with the woman who touched His robe. He could have pressed on through the crowds knowing she was healed by touching His garment, rather He took a few minutes and encouraged her, He gave her grace.
- We must remember who we are. We are a Child of the King. Sometimes we must “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). It may not be a sin issue, but it is an invasion into our boundaries. In love, with a calm and gentle voice, we must remind another of our boundaries. We need to listen to our bodies-even Jesus took a nap. (Mark 4:38). Sometimes our boundaries will be sacrificed for another’s boundaries. If it is not sin, does not cause a loss in our personal time with God, does not cause us to rush and will minister to another; we should willingly sacrifice. We must show grace to others as God has shown it to us.
This is a hard topic to quantify: boundaries and grace. There are not too many hard and fast rules or a logarithm to follow: if this than this. We must remember the Holy Spirit lives within us as believers. He will help to guide us in the grey area situations if we spend time with the Father daily and allow the Spirit to minister to our Spirit. (Romans 8:16). Again, I want to remind each of us that the Holy Spirit lives within us. He wants to guide us through each and every situation for our good and the Father’s glory.