[#write31days] Day 20 “I Am Selfish”

Welcome to Day 20 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page

As good and hard-working people and friends we obviously want to do our jobs well and be there for our friends. Our Christian faith commands us to love others – isn’t it egoistic to set boundaries then?

Lie #4: Setting Boundaries is unbiblical and selfish
If you talk to non-Christian friends around you what Christianity is all about they’ll probably give you one word: love. Probably one of the most overused and yet underrated words in your society, bashed in media and politics. “Those Christians” are supposed to love everyone.
If you go to church on Sunday or listen closely to sermons and Christian songs; if you browse Christian media you’ll find one slogan: We must love each other because we’ve been loved first. The brothers and sisters in our congregations, the people in our neighborhoods, the refugees flooding our countries – they all deserve our attention and help. In the Bible we can read to bear each other’s burdens, to love others like we love ourselves, so let’s do that.

These are the voices we hear around us. We’re supposed to love, care, and bear – so what if we want to set boundaries? How about that other voice saying “You can’t set boundaries. Saying NO is not biblical, it’s just a selfish move. You choose to care more about yourself than to love others.”
What do we do with these voices? Are the boundaries we set selfish and unbiblical?

I believe the Bible is true, love is the key.
Often underrated in its original form, it can truly make a difference. Love is the thing that can set us apart, that can turn lives around, that can shine light into the darkness. 
I also believe that our love’s supposed to be practical. Let’s support each other by listening, helping out, spending time and effort on those in need. Acting out love speaks louder than our words. 

But the same Bible that commands us to love also talks about protection.

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Proverbs 4:23


Taking care of others, loving them unconditionally, bearing their burdens is an act of life. A helping hand is life-giving to someone else. But we’re only able to share life with all its joys and hopes when we have enough life left to give.

Imagine a basin full of water, a reservoir to provide and nourish many. But just one small leak can turn it all around. The life-giving water is running out, and eventually the abundance that was once there is gone. An empty basin can support and help no one.
You’re a basin filled with with life and many good things. You’re supposed to give and love others. But you need to protect yourself from any leaks that could come from busyness, false beliefs, pushy and demanding people.
Closing yourself off once in a while is only selfish if you choose to remain in that comfort zone, if you hide the treasures you’ve been given to share.
Withdrawing into the safety of saying NO sometimes is a necessary step to protect and recharge the abundance inside of you. Well-nourished souls will always come back stronger, more alive and more passionate to share than those running on mere reserves.

20aAnother trap is the word “care” in itself. What does it mean to care for someone else, to love someone else?
Yes, often it means getting your hands dirty, giving someone practical help. Yes, sometimes it means taking on more work than usual to give someone relief.
Taking care does not mean taking responsibility for everything and everyone. Caring too much will ultimately not help the other person, but keep them from maturing and acting responsibly themselves. Saying NO is therefore not an act of selfish egoism, but rather a step to teach others how to be responsible. One step at a time. One NO at a time.

Is the thought of selfishness familiar to you? Where do you give more than you’re actually able to? To which people do you have to say NO in order to teach them maturity?

[#write31days] Day 14 Biblical Boundaries

Welcome to Day 14 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page

We have talked about boundaries found in nature and in ourselves, but there’s one more source to look for boundary foundations: the Bible speaks a lot about freedom and grace and love for each other – this does not exclude boundaries, however. It actually recommends them.

God and Boundaries
Something that many people really have a hard time wrapping their mind around is God as trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are one, and yet they are three. Each of them has unique characteristics and features. The Father as creator and provider. The Son as savior and friend. The Spirit as counselor and encourager. They are all one, and yet there are clear boundaries. Weird concept, I know, but it shows that boundaries are not unfamilar in the spiritual realm.

In fact, God himself has set boundaries in nature. We find it in the creation stories and verses such as these:

Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. Jeremiah 5:22

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. Job 26:10

We need boundaries in nature, otherwise we would constantly live in darkness (and who wouldn’t want to have these breathtaking sunrises and sunsets!). The land we live on would be swamp and our houses would sit on very shaky ground.
Certain boundaries secure and enable a safe life.

14bWhenever God sets boundaries he has good intentions for this place. A set apart place is where inheritance falls and prospers.

Thus says the Lord God: “This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Ezekiel 47:13

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

We will only see inheritance prosper if we set good boundaries. Not to close others off, but to protect our treasures. The treasures God has given us as our inheritance.

Take Care
We often consider ‘inheritance’ a physical thing – a piece of land, money etc. But especially the New Testament uses ‘inheritance’ in a different context. We as believers are promised eternal life with Christ, and parts of it are available now. Life with Christ is a life of abundance, of peace, of joy.
Faith is a gift, new abundant life is a gift. But we still need to use all our awareness and effort to protect it. Take care of that new life that’s been planted inside you.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Taking care of our hearts, guarding our minds is not just an option – the 14abible tells us it’s essential. Keeping the life – the abundance – alive in us will revive everything else; letting it flow out will eventually dry up our strength, our energy, our motivation, our joy, our sense of self.

Take (No) Responsibility
This might sound awfully selfish in some people’s ears – isn’t the main message of Christianity to love others?
Yes, we have been loved from the very beginning, through all our failures, and until the very end. Because of this love we’re called to love others, especially when it’s hard. How does that look like in practice?

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

We can show love very practically by carrying each other. Being there for each other, listening to someone’s stories. Crying with the sad, celebrating with the happy. Lifting each other up in prayer when you’re too weak to pray.
We can help each other out, cooking dinner when someone’s busy working. Moving boxes all around town when you have to change houses. Driving cross-country because someone just needs a friend.
We can only make it all the way if we walk together. 

14cYet, only three verses later Paul says this:

For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:5

Carrying each other doesn’t mean to simply drop off all our cares with someone else. I can’t just let go because someone else will do everything for me. I can’t take all the blame because a friend refuses to take responsibility for him/herself.
Growing up ultimately is about taking responsibility for yourself and forcing others to do the same. Finding the balance between persevering to the end and allowing others to help might be one of the hardest exercises in the course of life.

Take some time to re-read these pieces of scripture in their contexts. Thank God for setting boundaries in nature and in your life. Allow him to show you where you still need to take care and responsibility of yourself and less of others.