Every one of us puts up emotional and mental boundaries in the interest of self-protection, and mental wellness professionals agree that boundaries are healthy. Spiritual boundaries are similarly beneficial to our spiritual well-being. There should be clear boundaries to govern the beliefs we hold and how we put those beliefs into practice.
Not having spiritual boundaries can lead to theological confusion and the misbehavior that comes with it. The Bible tells us that the spiritually immature are “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). How can we avoid being deceived by the schemes of false teachers? Study the Word (2 Timothy 2:15), obey the Word (Psalm 119:33), and set spiritual boundaries.
Here are some guidelines for setting spiritual boundaries:
Set spiritual guidelines concerning doctrine. It is vital for our spiritual health that we not give heed to false teachings. To have proper spiritual boundaries, we must know the truth—we must study the Word of God and commit to following it. “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). We must also screen out the lies: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). The church of Ephesus did a good job at setting spiritual boundaries concerning doctrine: “You have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false” (Revelation 1:2). The churches of Pergamum (Revelation 2:14) and Thyatira (Revelation 2:20) were not so good at doctrinal discernment.
Set spiritual guidelines concerning companions. Our choice of friends is important in our spiritual walk (Amos 3:3). The Bible gives us guidance about the type of person we should be seeking as a friend. Our close friends should exhibit godly wisdom: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). Our close friends should be self-controlled: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered” (Proverbs 22:24). Our close friends should be willing to tell us the truth, even when it hurts: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). This isn’t about being holier-than-thou; it’s about being wise in selecting close associates, knowing that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).
Set spiritual guidelines concerning morality. What we choose to do with our bodies has an impact on our spiritual health (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). For this reason, we are told to “run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22, NLT) and “do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14). Samson failed to set spiritual boundaries in this regard, and he lost his hair, his eyes, and his freedom as a result (Judges 16).
Set spiritual guidelines concerning idolatry. An idol is anything that replaces God in our hearts or prevents us from giving God His due glory, and the world is full of idols. We must make a conscious decision to reject what would damage our fellowship with Christ. We must learn to say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). God promises rewards for those who set spiritual boundaries to keep the idols out: “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Setting spiritual boundaries entails discernment: “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it” (Psalm 101:3). It involves having the foresight to see where a particular path will lead and choosing appropriately: “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way” (Proverbs 4:14–15; cf. Proverbs 22:3). It requires commitment: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Physical boundaries are important—putting a fence around a high-voltage area is a good idea. But spiritual boundaries are much more important. The health of our souls is at stake. Being protected from spiritual danger is every bit as important as staying physically safe.