Does turning your cheek mean there is no need for boundaries? Is someone who has healthy boundaries less godly? Are Christians supposed to be doormats?
We do need to grow to the place where we can turn the other cheek, but without packing more baggage of unforgiveness in the process. Establishing healthy boundaries will enable us to continually walk in love and not be knocked off the fence when others offend us.
Proverbs says to guard your heart, because out of it flows the issues of life. That is my favorite boundaries verse! So here’s a few words of wisdom from an former wilderness woman who was so bound in bitterness she couldn’t see straight. If you find yourself constantly frustrated with other people’s behavior, it’s time to take a look at your own soul.
Unresolved frustration leads to bitterness, and yet, sometimes we don’t even recognize it because it’s been there so long that it’s become a part of us. That’s when we need to do some spring cleaning in our heart and clean some issues that are growing mold. This is one way to take care of our “temple.” Afterall, Jesus said to love others as we love ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves very much, we won’t have any love to give others. It’s the same principle that airline attendants instruct passengers. “In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, FIRST place the mask over you own face.” They know the importance of disaster aid. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be in a position to help others.
There’s a fine line between setting boundaries to protect our heart from bitterness and turning the other cheek. This was something I only learned through a long process of trial and error. Here’s what I’ve concluded. If I “tolerate” someone’s disrespect because somehow that seems more Christian, but then it causes me to harbor unforgiveness, what is the net effect? Since unforgiveness is a sin, I’ve won a merit badge for turning my cheek, but I’ve ended up with a demerit in the end. Most of the time I ended up worse off for trying to do better.
Acts 8:23 gives shocking insight into bitterness. “For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” When we don’t forgive, we are not just more vulnerable to sin, we are bound to iniquity. Like a fly on a No-Pest strip, we are stuck in a sticky trap. That’s when we need to turn our offenses into fences by establishing healthy boundaries. When we fail to clear boundaries we leave ourselves vulnerable.
Consider this: When others continually violate us, it may not always be their fault. Sometimes we tolerate too much. It’s twisted Christianity when we think we should let others walk all over us. After all, Jesus said to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we don’t love ourselves very much, we won’t have any love to give others. It’s the same principle that airline attendants instruct passengers. “In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, FIRST place the mask over you own face.” They know the importance of disaster aid. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be in a position to help others.
In the same way, bitterness is like losing oxygen. When we are bound by bitterness because we let others disrespect us, our capacity to truly love is severely compromised. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Aren’t boundaries selfish? Isn’t it wrong to put ourselves first?” Well, Jesus said to love God first, then ourselves, so that we could love others. He knew the divine order of things. When we love God and take care of our own temple, eventually, a beautiful thing happens. Our offenses turn into fences. When we are no longer offended, our capacity to love increases. Not only do we love ourselves more, but others recognize that. They respect us more. But the best part is that we are capable of showing love in a much greater capacity. People who once irritated us no longer do. They may not have changed their actions, but we can love them in spite of it.
I can tell you it works! As I have matured in my ability to tolerate others imperfections, the boundaries and fences around my temple have become smaller. The fences to protect my heart have increased my capacity to love. Today I love bigger and so can you!
Prayer: Father, I thank You for my friend and the good work You have begun in her. I declare that because Your spirit lives in her, You have enabled her to love with a godly, ever-icreasing love. I thank you that through Your grace she has the capacity to overlook an offense when others mistreat her. Your wisdom gives her the discernment to know when and how to guard her heart by establishing boundaries so that Your love shines in her. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.