Jesus Set Boundaries

black metal fence

What is a Boundary?

Webster – A line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line that divides spheres; something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.

  • It’s a limit or edge that defines you as separate from others.
  • A boundary is a limit that promotes integrity, can preserve life and advance relationship.
  • Boundaries are physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, relational. They can consist of the limits of what we consider safe and appropriate, our unique set of feelings and reactions, individual perceptions, values, goals, concerns, roles we choose to play, etc.
  • There are similarities and differences in boundaries across cultures, so it is important to be sensitive to people’s differences.

Why have boundaries?

  • For protection and personal security
  • To create order
  • To define ourselves clearly
  • To gain a clearer sense of ourselves in relation to others
  • To empower us to determine how we will be treated by others

Boundaries Vs. Walls

  • A boundary invites a person into a space but defines limits. A wall does not allow a person into a space.
  • A wall is formed through unforgiveness.   A boundary is a God ordained fence.

God created boundaries

  • Between Himself and Creation (natural and supernatural)
  • In The Physical World (Gen 1 – land/sea, day/night, light/darkness, humans/animals)
  • In the Law (Ex 20; Deut 19:14; Prov 22:28; Hos 5:10) – “Thou shalt not” “Do not move the ancient landmark”

How are boundaries formed?

They begin to form in infancy through family and environmental interactions. In a healthy family, a child is helped to become a unique individual by developing a self-concept separate from other family members. Healthy families promote members’ self-actualization. We learn about our boundaries by the way we are treated as children, and then we teach others where our boundaries are by the way we let them treat us.

Results of not setting boundaries/violations of boundaries at a young age

  • Inability to say “no” to hurtful people (repeat abuse)
  • Inability to hear “no” from others (repeat abuser)
  • Inability to delay gratification to accomplish goals and tasks
  • Attracts irresponsible or other hurtful people
  • “hero” syndrome to help fix other people
  • Lives life as a victim
  • People pleasing becomes more important than emotional / physical health
  • Can be easily manipulated or controlled by others
  • Disorganization and lack of follow through
  • Become romantically involved with someone that you want to fix / fix you
  • Have addictions

Jesus on Earth

1. Develops circles of relationships given different time / attention / priority

  • Best Friends: peter, james, john.
  • Special Friends: the disciples.
  • Social Friends: Lazarus/Mary/Martha; his mother, family
  • Casual Friends: the 500, the 120
  • Outside the circles: the crowds.

Each of these levels

  • Expectations of people are different
  • Levels of trust are higher
  • Burdens / loads that are placed on people are different
  • Transparency is different

2. Teaches His disciples boundaries (Matt 10:1-17)

  • establish who you are called to be with (v.5-6)
  • discern the people who are there (v.11-13)
  • remove self from those who don’t welcome you / unworthy of you (v.14ff)

3. Jesus Said No to Inappropriate Behavior

  • Demands. He withdrew from the crowds who wanted him, for one-on-one time with the Father (Luke 5:15-16).
  • Abuse. He fought his way through the crowd that was trying to throw him off a cliff for claiming to be the Messiah  (Luke 4:28-30).
  • Entitlement. He didn’t give in to his mother and brothers who tried to use their relationship with him to pull him away from the crowd he was ministering to (Matthew 12:46-50).
  • Baiting Questions. When the religious leaders asked him baiting questions to make him look foolish he answered with incisive questions of his own (Matthew 21:23-27, 22:15-22).
  • Cynicism. He said no to Herod’s mocking demand, “Show us a sign that you are the Son of God.” (Luke 23:8-9).
  • Manipulation. He said no to Peter and the disciples who had an inappropriate agenda for Jesus to a political king or military warrior rather than a sacrificial lamb. (Matthew 16:23).
  • Pride. He walked away from those too proud to trust Him (Matthew 13:58)

4. Jesus taught us how to set boundaries

Be Honest and Direct (Don’t Pressure People or Try to Get Them to Do Things): “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

Set Priorities: “No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Luke 16:13).

Please God, Not People: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (Matthew 21:28-31; John 5:44).

Boundaries that need to be created

  • You are responsible for setting healthy boundaries.
  • Identify what is healthy
  • Deal with past violations (forgiveness, new mindset)
  • Establish new boundaries
  • Deal with violators
  • Maintain new boundaries

Skin – You are separate from others. You can make choices about what you see, smell, touch, feel, and hear. What is inappropriate touching, contact, distance? Victims of physical and sexual abuse have been violated in this area. Often there is a need to personal self worth to be restored here.

Time – Establish what a healthy balance for all areas of life is. What is appropriate work time, family time, church time, personal time, etc. What encroaches your time? What must be adjusted?

Relational Circles – Develop a list of levels of relationships. Establish the level of intimacy that is appropriate for each level of relationship. Establish what level of openness and information is appropriate for each level of relationship. Friendships, family, Employee / Employer, Spiritual Advisor, etc.

Words – Learn to say “no”. Confront violators / violations to ungodly control or sinful treatment of you. Stop giving reluctantly (2 Cor 9:7; Matt 18:15-20).

Thoughts – If our boundaries have been violated – we may violate others boundaries. As you discover healthy boundaries – it will change the way you think.

Remove Abusive People – Scripture is full of admonitions to separate ourselves from people who are acting in destructive ways. (Ps 1)

  • Inappropriate personal questions
  • Inappropriate personal touching
  • Inappropriate lifestyle peer pressure
  • Attempts to violates boundary line of our relationships (marriage, family, etc)
  • Attempting to control how another thinks, believes, feels
  • Those who avoid / abandon us
  • Those who will not stop repeating – even after asking for “forgiveness”
  • Violations of intrusion
  • Violations of personal distance
  • Manipulative, controlling, abusive, don’t take responsibility, etc

Boundary Maintenance

  • Most people will respect our boundaries if we indicate where they are, but with some people, we need to actively defend them.
  • Like a fence, boundaries require maintenance. Some people crawl on our boundaries like ivy.


Material Adapted from

  • Katherine, A. Boundaries, where you end and I begin. (1991). Simon & Schuster, NY.
  • Bill Gaultiere “Boundaries”– Soul Shepherding
  • Boundaries – Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend