Boundaries and Liberties

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 NAS

Choose wisely the bounds you have chosen and friends who respect them.”

My thoughts today are about “boundaries and liberties.”

Everybody needs rules. Almost nobody likes them. God gave the Ten Commandments, not the ten suggestions. He gave them out of love for you, not love for law. In athletics and academics, as in life itself, rules allow everyone to compete fairly, and provide a means for achievement to be measured and compared. That’s why there are rules and referees, grades and graduation requirements, right and wrong.

Rules establish boundaries. My Dad believed in rules, always clear but fair. They made me wiser and better than I would otherwise have been. Boundaries are for your benefit, not to limit or restrict you. They protect and keep you safe. Maybe it would help to think of boundaries rather than rules. I see three occasions for boundaries.

There are times you need people to set boundaries for you. That is the value of parents, teachers, friendships, and civil and governmental authorities. They set boundaries that are to benefit all. “For government is God’s servant to you for good.” Romans 13.4. Respect and appreciate them for doing so. Laws are to protect the lawful and restrain the lawless. “Obey your leaders, and submit to them for they watch for your souls as those who will give account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17.

Sometimes you will need to determine boundaries for others. True liberty is not without limits, never without restraint. I had a fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, who taught our class a simple principle about boundaries and liberties, “Your liberty to swing your fist without restraint ends at the tip of another’s nose!” Friends often set boundaries for one another. Often it is more kind to say no, not cruel. Choose wisely the bounds you have chosen, and friends who respect them.

At all times, you must set boundaries for yourself. The best decisions you make were made before the situation needing a boundary presented itself. The right decision is never too late, but it’s best when made early. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Everything is permissible, but not everything is edifying.” I Corinthians 10:23 NAS. God’s boundaries mark the places where you will find your greatest liberties, and others find safety.

When I was first preparing for ministry, my Dad taught me something very valuable about boundaries for pastoral ministry, “Those you lead will likely exceed your liberties, so be wise. And others who follow may stop short of your disciplines, so be careful, seeking to excel.”

Someone is always following you, even when you do not think so. Many years ago, a man made this observation of me, “Pastor, you are not hard to follow because you do not make sudden turns.” I am not sure that he meant that as a compliment, but I accepted it as one. I want to be easy to follow for my family and for those who trust my leadership. I want them to know where I am going, who I am following, and how to get where God is leading.

My prayer for you today is: know that boundaries are to protect you, not confine you.