Jesus and Boundaries

Boundaries are all about relationships. Because we live in relationship with others, we need to define where we begin and end. Boundaries define who we are in connection with our other relationships.

We may feel hateful, selfish, or unloving, however, to set these limits in our relationships. Setting a boundary means that we say “yes” to some things, but it also means we say “no” to some things. We may fear that the “no” is contrary to faithfulness to God. Maybe we feel this way because we don’t appreciate the “no” that others give in relationship to us.

“We judge the boundary decisions of others, thinking that we know best how they ‘ought’ to give, and usually that means ‘they ought to give to me the way I want them to!” (Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries, p. 89)

Jesus lived perfectly in relationship with God and others. Taking time to see how He set boundaries in His relationships gives us courage to establish boundaries as well.

1. Time alone with God.

Jesus spent time alone with God, even at the expense of satisfying the desires of those around Him. He often said “no” to the crowds in order to say “yes” to His greater need of spending time with His Father.

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for Jesus, and they found Him and said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’” (Mark 1:35–37, ESV)

Simon and the others with him were literally hunting for Jesus. Their reason for such an intense search was that “everyone was looking for Him.” Jesus established a boundary. He was saying “yes” to His need to spend time with God, but that meant He was saying “no” to the crowds who wanted to see Him. In the same way, we need to establish boundaries to fulfill our need to be alone in rest and prayer with God, even when it means that we say “no” to the desires of others.

2. Purpose for life.

Another clear example of Jesus setting boundaries in relationship with others is when He said “no” to others in order to say “yes” to His purpose.

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (Matthew 16:21–23, ESV)

Even though Peter (and the rest of His friends) saw the purpose of Jesus differently than Jesus did, Jesus didn’t give in to their expectations. He said “no” to their expectations and “yes” to His purpose.

3. Demands from family.

Jesus also set boundaries with His family. The brothers of Jesus approached Him to let Him know what He needed to do. They were telling Him that if He is going to be known, then He needed to move to Judea and make Himself known to the world. Jesus could turn things around if He went to the most popular festival in the land. So His brothers urged Him to go to the festival. Jesus, however, said “no” to the motivation of His brothers and “yes” to what God wanted Him (John 7:3-8).

Just as Jesus set boundaries in His relationships, we also must do the same. As we say “yes” to who God has made us to be and who He wants us to be, we must also say “no.” Through boundaries, we define clearly who we are in relationship with others.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, give me the wisdom and courage to submit to the boundaries that You set in my life and my relationships.”


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