Have you ever been deeply disillusioned by someone whom you thought was a friend but turned out to be a controller or manipulator and when you didn’t comply with their demands they dropped you? Do you think because we are to seek to love everyone with God’s unconditional love that means you should allow them total access into your life?
Actually real genuine love has many boundaries. To enable someone to treat you with anything less than respect is actually enabling them to continue in sin. If you put up a boundary and not allow them to disrespect you then you are actually walking in His love with them. We teach people how to treat us by the behavior we accept or not accept from them. Think about it.
Scripture invites us to develop relationships with other believers, but it also warns us that not all relationships are healthy ones. If we don’t recognize this it could cause many to be trapped in destructive relationships that will not only erode their own walk with God, but also will, in time, project a wariness of others that will make them withdraw from healthy relationships altogether. This is not God’s will for He says to not forsake the gatherings together with His body.
When healthy relationships work well they will encourage us, comfort us through our darkest moments and help us keep our trust in God. There is no treasure greater in this world than sharing that kind of friendship with believers who are committed to God’s work in your lives.
However, it is advantageous for us to learn to recognize those toxic people that come into our lives that can undermine our personal boundaries. They can take up all of our energy and resources and then when they are done with us they are nowhere to be found. They simply move on to the next victim, leaving you feeling totally used. These are the people we are to love from a distance. Not everyone we meet in the body of Christ should we be intimately connected to. Even Jesus, when he discerned the hearts of people and that they had ulterior motives and only wanted to follow him because he fed the 5000, ministered to them, showed them kindness, but then turned back to join up with his disciples who He trusted.
“During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them.” John 2: 23-26 Msg
Some believers are plagued by relationships where other believers are manipulating and controlling them. Wanting to be humble and open they make room in their lives for the wrong kind of counsel and advice and are overwhelmed with guilt when they can’t satisfy what others expect of them. The New Testament tells us to love each other deeply, bear with each other through the trials and forgive each other’s faults as they arise, but it also warns us to recognize when relationships turn dark and destructive and to protect ourselves from them.
We need to learn to recognize if the signs that the relationship we’re having with another proclaimed believer is not going to help us grow spiritually. He warns us to step aside from them, not in judgment or anger, but simply so that they will not dominate our spiritual passion or lead us astray. What are some of these signs?
♥ People who have an obsession with controversy and gossip…they judge others morals while doing the very same things in their own hearts.
♥ People who flatter you with their lips in order to get close to you to glean your very energy because they have no life of their own…when you put up boundaries they are the first to get offended.
♥ People who blame others or pass out lists of things you can do to be a better Christian. You know you’re with people who are placing their confidence in something other than the work of God himself when you see this.
♥ People who want to take God’s place in your life. You’ll know you’re near one of these when they attempt to force you to choose between submitting to them and doing what you honestly feel that God has put on your heart.
♥ People who take the joy out of everything. Your rosy outlook on life continues to get squashed with negativity. Before you know it, their negativity consumes you and you start looking at things with gray colored glasses yourself
♥ Negative people who every time you have an idea, they tell you why you can’t do it. As you achieve, they try to pull you down. As you dream, they are the first to tell you it is impossible.
♥ People whom you can never give enough to make them happy. They take you for granted and have unrealistic expectations of you. They find ways to continually fault you and never take responsibility for anything themselves.
Believers who act destructively are themselves broken and fractured people. If God graces you to stay near them to love them and you can do it without compromising your own relationship with him, by all means do it! But beware that the relationship doesn’t start taking up all of your energy and distracts you from others that God would have you reach.
Now, we aren’t to distance ourselves from the people of the world. How else will the world ever come to experience God’s love if it is not through people like us loving them even in the midst of their worst failures and sins? This danger of distraction from our walk in Him doesn’t usually come from the world for we already know they have need of Him; it comes from the self righteous and broken within the church, sad to say. Most all of the hurt and rejection I have experienced along my journey has come from those I thought were my brothers and sisters in Christ.
When you recognize that another proclaimed believer is becoming a drain on you and keeping you from the real prize of knowing Jesus, you don’t have to be mean about it. You don’t have to confront, accuse and try to prove you’re right. Just step away quietly from them and spend your time with those relationships that stimulate you to draw closer to God and recognize his work in you. With the demands of our lives pressing us from every side, time is just too short to waste our energies on people filled with manipulation, gossip and division. We must learn to recognize the red flags in our relationships and become bold enough to use our boundaries and know when to say “No, that won’t work for me, thank you.”