Biblical boundaries lead to an abundant life… and marriage
Leave Me Alone!
What do you think of when you hear the word “boundaries”?
Does it carry a negative connotation or a positive one?
Honestly, I impulsively think of boundaries as the lines I draw for my own comfort.
I can commit to x number of things, but no more than that
I’ll give you x amount of my time, resources, attention, but then I need some “me” time to recoup (i.e., Leave me alone!)
I’ll let you within a certain distance of my life, but see this wall? Don’t try to come past it or I’ll erect three more in its place
Even something as simple as socks. (If you leave your dirty socks on the floor one more time, I’m not doing your laundry anymore. That’s where I draw the line!)
The definition of boundary is “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.”
But what about Biblical boundaries?
How do we define the same term, but spiritually?
One thing a boundary is NOT: a law we force on others.
To a world that doesn’t understand God, boundaries are bad. (i.e., Thou shalt not do anything fun.)
The truth is God’s boundaries are blessings! They are instructions He has given to protect our heart and marriage. How generous and thoughtful is our God?
He knows us so well. (Embrace the wonderful comfort understanding this fact brings to your life; read Known.)
He knows our bent toward sin and self-seeking (see my boundary bullet points above!). He also knows the emptiness we will feel when we reach the end of our selfish ambitions. He wants MORE for us; an abundant life! That is why He sets boundaries.
What happens in our marriage when we don’t set boundaries?
Let me tell you a story to illustrate...
Running on empty
When I was a teenager, I had a very bad habit of running out of gas. I’d see the gas gauge dangerously close to (or on) E, and instead of taking the time to stop and fill up, I’d ignore it. Most times I was running late, so I would take my chances and keep driving, praying for a tiny miracle: to reach my destination without running out of gas. Inevitably, I would feel the familiar stall as my car died and I’d maneuver to the roadside. The truth is, while entertaining stories can be told about my roadside adventures, I’m lucky nothing worse than being late to my destination ever occurred.
The same cannot be said for marriage.
We must pay attention to our spouse’s gas gauge; we cannot ignore it. If we do, the fuel will get lower and lower until we’re running on empty. We feel the familiar stall of our marriage as tensions and frustrations rise, causing us to pull over and figure out what went wrong.
It is our responsibility to keep our spouse’s tank full. When the low fuel light turns on, we know we need to pour into them. This is when it is important to remember generosity.
(For more on the power of graciously giving to your spouse, read THIS.)
When we freely pour into that which fulfills (loving our spouse), we will never burn out.
So, how do we keep their tank full?
Protect the sacredness of our marriage
Keep us far from anything that could hurt our relationship
Help us stay on course for the mission of our life and marriage
I’m held to by my accountability partner
You may be thinking: How do we set those boundaries?
First, let’s see what God’s Word has to say about it.
The Bible and Boundaries
In Genesis 2:15-19, we see the Lord’s very first boundary. He tells Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because he would spiritually die (v. 17).
Why did God set this boundary?
It was NOT to hold anything back from Adam (and Eve), it was because He knew what breaking that boundary would do: bring spiritual death and separation from Him.
HE LOVED THEM TOO MUCH to just sit back and let them indulge. So, He warned them.
Living within the freedom of God’s boundaries does NOT mean the absence of good things. It is just the opposite of that!
The joy and pleasure we experience when we play within the Lord’s boundaries are paramount.
God’s boundaries are evidence of His goodness and merciful desire to protect us from painful consequences.
Look at the following chart and notice how God’s boundaries are wrapped in love:
No coarse joking, not a hint of sexual immorality
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love…
Treat younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity
(1 Timothy 5:1-2)
Watch your life and your doctrine closely … save both yourself and your hearers
(1 Timothy 4:16)
Keep the marriage bed pure
Do not deprive each other, except by mutual consent and for a time, so you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again, so that Satan will not tempt you through your lack of self-control.
(1 Corinthians 7:5)
Learn to control your body in a way that is holy and honorable
(1 Thessalonians 4:4)
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other …
Now that we have a better understanding of spiritual boundaries and how God uses them, let’s get to work…
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
Set practical boundaries for the protection of your marriage
Boundaries fall into one of two categories: protective and giving. It is important to set parameters in both categories to help fuel our marriage.
Read the following examples of protective and giving boundaries.
Finances- talk about your spending limits and how to honor God with your money (stewardship; Luke 21:1-4). (For more financial help in your marriage, read Finding Freedom in Financial Unity.)
Technology- use the same passwords, know each other’s cellphone passcodes, be open with all text messages, include spouse when texting with the opposite sex
Not a hint of immorality- neither spouse alone with someone of the opposite sex without advance permission, no entertainment (movies, books, etc.) with nudity/sexual innuendo
Time- What are my priorities? Are they aligned with what God’s Word says, or is something else taking precedent? Remember the Lord’s greatest commandments, then pray Psalm 90:12 to refocus where your time and energy should be spent.
Absolute purity- confess sexual sin/temptation right away, make it safe for confession and discussion! (*This is the counterpart to the third point above regarding sexual immorality.)
If your spouse comes to you broken and empty, it is not the time to be judgmental and harsh, it’s the time to be generous. Fill up their tank!
As a couple, put a boundary on the amount of time that will pass without intimacy. (For more sexual intimacy, read Let's Talk About Sex and Why Isn't Sex with My Spouse Satisfying?).
Pray with your spouse about what boundaries are needed.
Use the following questions to guide your discussion:
What boundaries are already placed in our marriage?
What boundaries do you need placed on me?
What boundaries do we need together?
Who will keep us accountable (besides each other)?
Write it down.
Write down any boundaries you/your marriage needs and why
Back them up with Scripture references
Create practical questions for your accountability partner to ask you (for example: “When was the last time you felt justified in being disrespectful/unloving toward your spouse? Were you Biblically justified?”)
It’s easy to make a vow to change, do all the necessary work to set yourself up for success, even make a concerted effort for a few days. But eventually it’s gonna get real and staying within the boundaries you’ve put in place will be really tough. You may want to throw in the towel. (If you're desiring change in your marriage, but keep sliding back to square one, click HERE.)
Do not give up.
Check it out
We’ve all heard the phrase: “It takes a village.” Usually we use it in reference to raising children, but it can also apply to our marriages.This is where having an accountability partner is not only beneficial, but necessary. Read Should I Be Held Accountable? to learn more about the importance and benefits of an accountability relationship.
Listen to this post's corresponding podcast:
How to Help a Hurting Marriage: Boundaries & Accountability (Part 6):: [Episode 98]