What Would Jesus Say about Setting Boundaries?

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2. Boundaries Protect Priorities

Many of us proudly assert that Jesus is our Lord—our master, guide, and the One with full and final authority. If asked, we’d say He alone holds the throne of our hearts, but often our actions indicate differently. At least, mine do. Though I know I need a Sabbath rest and to guard my time with Christ, this often requires telling others no, which can be difficult. As a result, I can allow others to guilt me into accepting invites or performing tasks that ultimately steal those heart-nurturing moments from me.

Establishing, communicating, and maintaining clear boundaries helps ensure our actions align with our hearts.

Jesus excelled at this. Somehow He managed to respond to interruptions with immediacy and grace, but never at the expense of time with His Father. In Luke chapter 5, shortly after healing a man with leprosy, crowds gathered around Him, desperate for healing. Deep compassion must have welled within Him as He surveyed the sick and wounded before Him, some of whom had likely been quarantined for years if not decades.

What would you have done in that situation or one similar? Today, this might look like serving at a soup kitchen with an endless line of hungry men and women. It might look like receiving call after call from hurting parents asking you to mentor their depressed and anxious teens. It might look like making hospital visits or taking meals to shut-ins and those in hospice.

In other words, the needs before Christ were significant, but they were also personal. These men and women weren’t simply strangers crying out for aid. They were His beloved, His creation, individuals He had lovingly formed (Psalm 139:13-16). He loved each one of them as fiercely as I love my daughter. Yet still, He pulled away. He took time to refuel and refocus. Luke 5:16 says, despite all the needs pressing in, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (NIV).

Mark 1:35-39 tells of a similar situation, one that left others concerned and baffled. Scripture says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’

“Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come’” (NIV).

Notice, Jesus didn’t explain Himself or try to defend His actions. Once He’d prayed, He simply moved on, heading with clarity and focus to His next assignment. The disciples’ reaction, upon finding Him, reminds me that others, even those close to me, might not understand my boundaries. They might even push against them and attempt to make me feel as if I’m being selfish, uncaring, or rigid. Confronted with such unkind and manipulative responses, I might be tempted to compromise.

I often struggled with this when my daughter was young. I knew family dinners were important and worth protecting, but my friends didn’t always understand. Almost nightly, someone would ring our doorbell, wanting my daughter and I to spend time with them and their children. Some days, feeling rude and uncompromising, I wrestled with my decision. But years later, watching her friends grow increasingly distant with their parents while my husband and daughter and I grew closer, I was grateful for every meal we shared.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images

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