• Joshua D McVey

Are Boundaries Biblical?

As Christians, we believe ministering to those in need is paramount to our faith. We practice ‘Justice’ and ‘Mercy’. We give to those in need. We can be overwhelmed with the needs of the world around us. It reminds me of Jesus surrounded by the crowds. They needed healing. The need was great. Jesus said the fields are ripe for the harvest (John 4:35).

Luke 6:12 . . . and he went into a mountain to pray . . .

Matthew 14:23 . . . After he had dismissed them, he went up onto a mountain to pray. Later that night he was there alone . . .

Luke 22:41-44 . . . He withdrew a stone’s throw beyond them to pray.

Mark 1:35 . . . Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

In Matthew fifteen Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees and teachers of the law regarding the disciples washing their hands before they ate. Jesus confronts them and their teaching, regarding the breaking God’s command to honor their parents. Instead of taking care of their parents in the twilight years they commit what could be used to help their parents as ‘devoted to God’.

The Pharisees are worried about washing hands, when they are neglecting a command of God by finding a loop hole. They are missing the point of God’s commands. Then Jesus’ own disciples complain that what he said may have offended the Pharisees. “What’s important is what comes out of your mouth, not what you put into it (paraphrased).” He tells them.

Peter asks, “Explain the parable to us.”

Jesus responds, “Are you still so dull?”

He is frustrated and overwhelmed. His disciples are not understanding his teachings, worse they don’t understand Godliness. They’re missing the whole point. Jesus then withdraws, according to verse twenty-one, to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

He needs a break.

Then a Canaanite woman comes crying out after him. “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

Jesus ignores her.

His disciples plead with Jesus to send her away. She won’t leave.

Finally, Jesus answers, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Not that they’re understanding what I’m doing (writer’s addition). “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

What a nasty thing for Jesus to say. He has just compared this woman to a dog. Can you hear Jesus’ frustration?

“Yes, it is, Lord,” She says. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Can you see Jesus stop?

For a moment the circumstances may have gotten the better of him. Perhaps, he is called back to himself and remembers his mission. This woman is happy to get the scraps, and why shouldn’t she? The Pharisees and teachers of the law are too good for the master’s banquet, but this woman waits in eager anticipation for the blessing the master might have for her.

“Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” Jesus said.

And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Jesus withdrew.

He was beset with great crowds. People pushed in to hear him. Many wished only to touch his cloak in hopes of healing. The needs were great. He was pressed by his enemies and the needs of the people. Wherever he went a crowd followed.

Jesus had to withdraw. He spent time in prayer.

Boundaries are important. Imagine if Christ had not withdrawn and spent time in prayer. Loving others is what we do as Christians, but we must take care of ourselves. We must withdraw and spend time in prayer. It’s important we remember our calling to love God and love others.

It’s good to have boundaries and know our limits. I believe this speaks to Jesus’ humanity. He was God and man. As people we can be overwhelmed. Withdraw and spend time in prayer.

May you find solitude and meet with God in prayer.

May you remember your mission, when you’re frustrated and pushed to your limit.

May you give mercy when you need it most.

In His service and yours,


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