Have you seen the slogan, "No Boundaries"? "No Boundaries" is a pop-culture catchphrase that has a bold sound and a big problem. Even though it sounds gung-ho, it actually contradicts a Biblical principle that is fundamental to success in life. A proper understanding of "boundaries" is one of the most critical lessons for a young person to learn.
In the first pages of the Bible, as we read about God's re-creation of the earth, we are introduced to the concept of "boundaries." We read, "Then God said, 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.' Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament" (Genesis 1:6–7). The Hebrew word translated "firmament" in this verse simply refers to the band of atmosphere in which we live. This atmosphere separates the liquid water of lakes, streams, rivers and oceans from the water vapor that gathers in clouds in the sky. God created a "boundary."
In Genesis 2, the Creator established one very special time boundary: "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it" (Genesis 2:2–3). As the sun dipped below the horizon, crossing the boundary between the sixth and seventh day, mankind was introduced to the Sabbath. On one side of that boundary, God worked and recreated the earth. On the other side, He rested, sanctifying His Sabbath day.
But, there was one more boundary to establish as God began to work with Adam and Eve.
God planted a garden "eastward in Eden" (Genesis 2:8). He put man within the garden to enjoy the abundance from the plants and trees. But He also established a boundary. "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'" (Genesis 2:16–17). God introduced Adam and Eve to the concept that He, as Creator, had the authority to establish a boundary between what could be eaten and what could not. Their obedience to His authority was crucial to their success and happiness. Of course, we read in the next chapter that they defied that boundary, and took of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a result, God established consequences. He drove them out of the Garden, and created a geographic boundary line guarded by a powerful angel.
As we glance through the pages of the Bible, we see that God established boundaries, both with individuals and with Israel.
In Exodus 3, when Moses was personally introduced to God, the first thing God did was establish a boundary. He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). In other words, God said, "You can wear your sandals everywhere else. But when you stand in My presence, in this place, you are on holy ground."
Recognize the boundary. Act differently. Take off your shoes.
After leaving Egypt, when the people of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, God prepared them to receive His Law. As part of His training for the people, He designated a boundary line between where they could stand and where on the mountain they were not allowed. "You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, 'Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death'" (Exodus 19:12). The people had to grasp the fact that God had authority over them. He would not tolerate trespassing on the area that He declared to be off-limits.
In Exodus 20, we then read a description of God's fundamental laws of life. These laws describe boundaries in how we interact with God and our neighbors. The First Commandment teaches us that we are not to create and worship a host of gods. Second, we must not worship God with physical images. Third, we must not use God's name carelessly. These three commandments create an "outline" of how we are to view God, worship Him, and use His name. You might say that they are like a "buoy-rope" designating the boundary line of a "safe-swimming area" in a lake. That "safe-swimming area" is further outlined by His Fourth Commandment—that we keep the seventh-day Sabbath holy. If we fail to obey this instruction or others like it, we are crossing the boundary into unsafe waters.
The last six commandments establish more points of reference in our boundary between success and failure in life.
If we dishonor our parents, murder, steal, lie, commit adultery or covet, we're crossing the line that God established between good and right conduct with our neighbors, and destructive and sinful actions that bring grief and heartache. And God wants us to have a deep reverence and even appropriate fear of His disapproval in order to keep us in safe waters. He said as much to the Israelites in Exodus 20:20. "Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.'"
What about you and me? Do we need to understand and respect the boundaries God has set? Of course!
If we think about the principles we've already reviewed, it is easy to see that these boundaries apply to us, even though we live thousands of years after the Ten Commandments were given.
We also have New Testament scriptures that teach us more about God's thinking in terms of boundaries. For example, men are given boundary lines as to how to view women. Christ said, "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). If we stay on the safe side of that boundary line, we'll not be viewing pornography, or looking at girls in a lustful way. Paul reminded Timothy, in 1 Timothy 5:2, that he should treat younger women as sisters: "with all purity." Those who become involved in sex and sexual foreplay before marriage are described in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as having no part in the kingdom of God. With these markers forming an appropriate boundary line, our "dating" boundaries are established by God. Crossing that boundary into the danger zone may be appealing in the moment, but the ultimate fruit will be bitter.
Our God of love has established boundaries to protect us, love us and create within us a reflection of the boundaries that define Him; "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16).
No boundaries...? No! Boundaries—healthy ones!