Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find? (Proverbs 20:6, ESV)
Lots of people claim to be loyal and loving, but where on earth can you find one? (MSG)
In last week’s post I began a discussion about what real love looks like. The discussion continues today over the issue of establishing boundaries in our relationships with people.
It is necessary to establish what many call, “healthy boundaries” in our relationships with people. After all, we are NOT to invite everyone into our lives with abandon. We have children to protect, schedules to honor, family space to provide, life directions to maintain. Common boundaries that I find myself discussing with young single people revolve around the issues of sex, or dating someone that does not know Christ yet. Such conversations encourage singles to establish God-driven boundaries.
So today’s post is not about boundaries being unnecessary.
Rather, this post is about the danger of over-using boundaries. Instead of establishing God-directed boundaries for godly living, it is possible to establish Me-centered boundaries for safer and easier living.
And nothing about God’s love is safe and easy.
The premise for my concern is two-fold:
1. God’s love is boundary-less, so my love needs to be boundary-less too.
God’s love has no boundaries. In fact, if Jesus had established boundaries about how much He loved us…
We would not have a Savior.
We weren’t worth that price. We weren’t worth that pain.
But He paid the price and endured the pain…because that is what love does.
And God will call us to the same.
Love is hard.
- We say we love our kids, but then find ourselves unglued by a two-year-old who won’t eat her breakfast. (The anger doesn’t look good. The words are horrid.)
- We say we love our husband, but then find ourselves resenting his work hours and being lonely. (The guy next door is really nice.)
- We say we love our son, but then we find ourselves facing a sullen teen who isn’t fun anymore. (Go ahead son, just stay in your room and play video games. I give up.)
- We say we love our husband, but then find ourselves unable to forgive something he did. (I am going to give him a good dose of the silent treatment. Serves him right.)
- We say we love our daughter, but then find ourselves facing an unwed mother. (How embarrassing. I don’t want my friends to know. What to do?)
As if the above scenarios aren’t hard enough, there’s more. We also need to love our bosses, our co-workers, our neighbors, our child’s teachers and coaches…and our enemies.
Love, not like. Love, not tolerate.
What does it look like?
I need to specify here that this post is not applicable today to those of you in extreme cases of domestic abuse, for example. Please get help. God will still call you to love, but He will not call you to stay in danger.
I am speaking to the vast majority of us living in the vast valley of normal and we give up way too soon because it gotten too hard…because we never were offering God’s love to others after all.
We get caught.
It happened to me.
I saw my brand of love in the mirror one day. I saw ME. I was willing to give, but on my terms (to people I like, planning events I enjoy, on days that fit into my schedule). I was willing to sacrifice, but not too much (I need to protect that day off. I do better on a good night’s sleep. I simply don’t feel like it right now.). I saw what God was trying to show me and faced it. I saw my Me-centered boundaries being challenged. I felt the push to keep my life on the safe and easy side of things.
I realized I can’t love.
God must love through me.
I am a quitter without Him. I can’t hang long in the difficult stuff. I want to run.
Only He can stay for me if I let Him plant my feet and I connect to Him and also ask Him to love for me.
Couples stand at the altar and commit to loving for a lifetime, believing the love is real, only to find the love tested. We get to a place where our love ends and in order to continue on in the marriage, our love must come from another source because we are depleted. It’s here we learn that we had been operating our own strength (We can think God’s love is what we are offering when it is fact not.) It’s at these lines that we have to decide what to do. Back off for “safer and easier,” or keep going forward on a journey for God to grow us and teach us to live and love more like Him.
One friend bravely and beautifully blogged about her love journey last week. She didn’t back off from God’s love and she’s glad she didn’t.
There are no boundaries when God is asking you to love.
Love dies for others like Christ died for us. In her blog post this week, Ann VosKamp, author of One Thousand Gifts says,
My first concern when I hear about people establishing boundaries in their lives is that God’s love is boundary-less, so my love must be boundary-less too. Here is my second concern:
2. The world cannot see God’s love unless we are interacting with difficult people.
Last week I referred to the following verse:
If you love those who only love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46-48, NIV)
We need to have hard-to-love people in our lives. Otherwise, we will not stand out as Christ followers, as Christians. I wrote about this is my book and have pondered it hard.
So when I hear phrases like, “I am getting rid of all the people in my life who exude negative energy,” the following thoughts currently cross my mind:
It may very well be that God is calling you to pull back from some relationships in your life that are difficult and threatening your ability to live a God-driven life, but God has probably not called you to back away from them all.
It’s not His way. It never will be.
- Without interaction, God has no room to do something through you.
- Without interaction, God has no room to do something in you.
- Without interaction, God cannot use you to point someone to Jesus.
- Without interaction, the world cannot see God’s love in you because you look like everyone else, loving people you also like.
I am so thankful that my Savior had all-out boundary-less love for me…and the world. I know with certainty that He will call all Christians to the same boundary-less love for others.
It’s the harder path to take.
The souls of people are worth it. The ability for the world to see God’s brand of love is worth it. Developing a closer relationship with God is worth it.
I want to REALLY love. Join me?
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