You are not going to find the term “personal boundaries” in the Bible. However, the Bible does talk about personal boundaries in principle.
A personal boundary, as most people use the term, is a defining line that separates individuals from one another. There are areas in my life that belong to me, and there are areas in your life that belong to you. For example, your boss does not have the right to enter your home unless you give her that right. If she did, she would be blowing past your personal boundaries. However, your boss has the right to enter your office at work whenever she wants because you don’t have the right to set this personal boundary.
This idea can be applied to all aspects of our lives, not just to physical space and time. Your body, your thoughts, your relationships, your beliefs, and so many other things that belong to you should have personal boundaries set around them. Anything you have authority over requires an intentional boundary be placed around it. In fact, the Bible tells us our life will be a mess unless we put up personal boundaries.
Why Are Personal Boundaries Important According to the Bible?
If a personal boundary is the defining line that marks where you begin, that separates your identity from others, and that defines what you have authority over and what you don’t, it’s not hard to see why the Bible emphasizes the importance of these types of boundaries.
Without boundaries you will be led astray by forceful people who are eager to control areas of your life that don’t belong to them. Without boundaries, you will be exposed to temptations that could have been easily avoided. And without respecting other’s personal boundaries, you will hurt many people because you will cross the line with them and seek to control areas of their lives which are inappropriate for you to do so.
Overall, every time the Bible talks about areas of your life that you alone are responsible for, when the Bible instructs you to remember your true identity in Christ which is separate from your old identity in the world, and every time the Bible teaches you to say “no” to something bad and “yes” to something good – in all these instances the Bible is touching on the importance of personal boundaries.
What follows is a list of areas where the Bible instructs us to have personal boundaries.
The Bible Says We Should Have Personal Boundaries With Our Beliefs
Perhaps the most important boundary the Bible instructs us to have is in regards to our beliefs. God has clearly instructed us to believe only certain things, the things which he has told us are true, and certain things which do not contradict his word. To please the Lord and stay on track, we will need to place personal boundaries around what we believe, refusing to take in new and old worldly lies. We must place a fence in our hearts around the sacred truths given to us in the Bible.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:1-3)
Here we have a clear boundary we should never cross with our beliefs. Any belief or teacher who does not recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, fully God and full man, should be rejected and kept out of your personal beliefs. Don’t open the gate of your heart to any belief which contradicts Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13-14, 1 Timothy 4:16, Galatians 1:6-9)
The Bible Says We Should Have Boundaries With Where We Find Our Identity
Core to the idea of personal boundaries is the subject of identity. The point of a boundary is to protect your identity from becoming confused with someone else’s identity. Boundaries separate us from other people and protect us from the mindless herd-mentality type of living we see in the world.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
Here we can we see that we must have boundaries with our identity, for when it comes to those of us who are saved by Jesus, we must “regard [none of us] according to the flesh.”
The Bible says we should make sure we are defined by nothing else other than Jesus Christ first and foremost. You may be a lawyer, pastor, mom, dad, son, daughter, baseball player, American, refugee, rich, poor, and so many other things. But if you are a Christian, you are not these things first. You are a Christ follower. You are separate from the old man, the influence of the world, and the control of Satan. You are a new creation. That’s who you are.
(Ephesians 2:1-5, Ephesians 4:22, Galatians 2:20)
The Bible Says We Should Have Boundaries In Our Thought Life
Personal boundaries regarding the mind reach further than beliefs and doctrines. The Bible instructs us that we should also be careful in what we think about on a very practical level. To think lustfully about someone is sinful. To cuss someone out in your mind is evil in the eyes of God. And to devise cunning plans to deceive others is a misuse of the thought processes God has entrusted to you.
Therefore, we must have personal boundaries regarding even what we think about. We must say “no” to certain thoughts and “yes” to other thoughts, creating a clearly defined place in our minds that is honoring to Christ and distant from unholiness.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)
Here we can see that we must have a personal boundary in our minds where we choose to set our minds on the things of the Spirit and not the things of the flesh. When we have this boundary in the mind through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will reap life and peace by God’s grace.
(Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-2, Romans 13:14 NIV)
The Bible Says We Should Have Personal Boundaries in Regards to Our Morality
As Christians, this is probably the most obvious boundary we expect to see in Scripture. The Bible is more than a list of what to do and not do. Certainly the Bible is a love letter from God, God’s revealed will for our lives, and the absolute truth we should all apply to our lives. But however you describe the Bible, you can’t say that it avoids guidelines, limits, and boundaries. Although it is more than a rulebook,it still tells us what to do and not do.
In short, the Bible says we should have personal boundaries when it comes to our morality. Sin, in effect, is caused by overstepping a boundary that should have been in place in our lives. There are ethical and moral lines you must not cross. The commands in Scripture are not there to limit us or to restrict us, but like all healthy boundaries, the imperatives in the word of God are like guardrails meant to keep us on God’s path.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10)
In this Bible passage, we can see that our moral boundaries should be governed by love. Love does what’s best for others, so anytime our actions and decisions are damaging others, we have blown past a healthy moral boundary. God’s commands are not there to box us in but to keep evil out of our lives.
(Romans 13:12-13, John 14:15, Ephesians 5:15, Luke 9:23, 1 John 2:3-11)
The Bible Says We Should Have Personal Boundaries in Our Relationships
The Bible talks a lot about boundaries in your relationships. For example, when you become a Christian, you are to then have healthy boundaries in place when it comes to your relationship with the world (by “world” I mean the collection of people, places, and things that are evil). You should always be “in” the world (around unbelievers) as light, but now we must not be “of” this world (yoked to unbelievers).
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15-16)
Additionally, Jesus had clear boundaries within his relationships. He did not entrust himself to unbelievers, though he loved them and came to save them (John 2:23-25). Amongst his disciples, he seemed to even have sublevels of boundaries, meaning he kept most of the disciples in one relational area, but he allowed Peter, James, and John into a different area of his life.
Jesus even seemed to take it a step further and had boundaries around each individual relationship, for when Peter wanted to know intimate knowledge about John, Jesus reinforced his boundaries and told Peter, in essence, that he was crossing a line he was not to cross:
When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him [John]?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:21-22)
In other words, Jesus was reminding Peter to focus on himself and leave John’s and Jesus’ relationship to John and Jesus. Peter was crossing a relational boundary and Jesus helped him return his focus to where it belonged – following Jesus in his own life.
Often times we will need to reinforce boundaries for people like Jesus did here to help others respect our lives and relationships.
(James 4:4, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Matthew 17:1)
Summary: What Does the Bible Say About Personal Boundaries?
What Jesus did for Peter is what he does for us all. He helps us remember where our main focus should be: on what we can control and what we do have influence over, not on what we don’t.
We can squander our whole lives away by worrying about things out of our control.After we’ve lovingly shared our thoughts and concerns, we can hurt people when we keep pushing, trying to get them to do what we think they should do rather than allowing them to live their lives. We can allow ourselves to be hurt when we tolerate people who try to run our lives when God is holding us responsible for this task.
Or, with healthy personal boundaries found in the Bible, we can thrive by remaining in our lanes, focusing on those areas of life where God has given us authority.
We all have to take responsibility and ownership of the things God has entrusted to us individually, and we must allow others to take responsibility for what has been entrusted to them. This is the heart of what the Bible says about personal boundaries.