Over the past few weeks in our Sunday morning Home Fellowship we’ve been looking at the early church in Acts 2 and how that impacts the way we “do church” now. One of the defining characteristics of the early Jesus movement is they were committed to sharing their lives with each other- eating together, praying for each other, sacrificially serving one another. SO a very counterintuitive, paradoxical principle came up in our discussion: to effectively open your life to others, you must also learn to effectively set boundaries. With seemingly limitless needs in the community, opportunities to serve, and potential relationships to invest in, this has proven a timely reminder.
I admit this principle sounds extremely contradictory, because isn’t creating boundaries the opposite of opening up and sharing your life? Not necessarily. Let me put in another way. To develop deep meaningful relationships with some people, you cannot possibly develop deep meaningful relationships with all people. None of us have the time, energy, or relational capacity to do that. Just take a look at Jesus.
As we read through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we can see that multitudes (literally thousands) of people would gather to watch and listen to Jesus. We can also see that out of these multitudes Jesus had a band of 70-120 people he referred to as disciples with whom He had a more committed relationship. Jesus had a closer knit familial relationship with His twelve apostles and some other close friends such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Still even within that group, Jesus would often pull aside Peter, James, and John, who became His inner circle. For some reason, Jesus made a deeper investment and had a qualitatively different relationship with those three guys. Most importantly, Jesus made a habit of withdrawing from all these people to spend time with the Father.
In my own life I see this at work. To say yes to personal time with God through the scriptures and prayer, I have to say no to other things- that’s creating a healthy boundary. To say yes to spending time with my wife and son (and soon arriving daughter), I have to say no to spending time with other people. To say yes to mentoring potential leaders, I cannot say yes to making that time for everyone. To say yes to sacrificially serving some new friends God has placed in my life, I have to actually say no to other opportunities. These are all healthy boundaries- not boundaries to limit God’s activity but to focus the time, energy, and resources He has entrusted to me.