Are You Unsuccessful When Setting Boundaries? Here’s Something I’ve Found to Be Remarkably Helpful: Acts 16:35-40

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.

In our last post from the book of Acts Paul and Silas forgave their jailer, after God unlocked their bonds and freed them from prison. And their forgiveness resulted in the jailer and his family receiving Christ. (If you’re interested, you can read more here: You Hold the Key to Setting Yourself Free: Acts 16:25-34.) In today’s post we’ll see how Paul and Silas set a boundary for themselves, and we’ll look at why that boundary was so successful.

Acts 16:35-40

But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

Acts 16:35-40

Paul and Barnabas were beaten and arrested and thrown in prison, but, all this was done to them unjustly. They were innocent of any wrong doing. And not only that, but they were both Roman citizens and it was illegal to bind or beat any Roman citizen without due process.

When morning came the magistrates sent police to the prison with orders to let Paul and Silas go. But Paul sets a boundary here. Possibly to create a precedent for the future, to gain more liberty and mobility to share Jesus publicly. Paul says to the police sent with orders to let them go, “They beat us publicly, uncondemned Roman citizens, and they threw us in prison. And now they want to send us out of town secretly. No way. Tell them to come escort us out of town publicly.”

When the magistrates found out they were Roman citizens they were afraid. So they came and apologized. And they took them out of the city publicly.

Then Paul and Silas visited Lydia, and they encouraged the brothers there in the area and then they departed.

The Key to Setting Boundaries

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve tried setting boundaries in relationships but haven’t had the best success in doing so. Maybe the boundary holds up for a short while but it isn’t long before it crumbles. I don’t really know why this works but something I’ve discovered recently fits perfectly with the events in Acts chapter 8. I submit to you that in Paul and Silas’s hearts, they forgave those magistrates who had them beaten and thrown in prison, even as they forgave the jailer himself. There are three reasons I believe this.

1) It’s consistent with the character of Christ.

2) They already demonstrated their forgiveness toward the jailer. It doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t do the same for the magistrates.

3) The boundary they set worked beautifully.

I don’t know why but in my experience I’ve found that forgiveness and boundary setting are tied together.

If I’m unable to forgive someone I’m far far less effective in setting healthy boundaries with that person.

But when I forgive, the way Paul and Barnabas forgave the jailer, and the magistrates, I’ve experienced far greater success when I set a boundary with the person who’s the recipient of my forgiveness.

And that forgiveness doesn’t even have to be verbalized. It just has to be heartfelt. It just has to be present inside of me.

In fact, I would even say that the combination of genuine forgiveness and healthy boundary setting is a very powerful way to improve the health of almost any relationship.

I hope you’ll try it.

I’ve found it to be amazing.


Recommended reading: Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, Zondervan, 2017

Image of fence via Wallpaper Flare — Creative Commons

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Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:

  • Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
  • How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
  • The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
  • How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
  • How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
  • How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
  • How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.

A life of loving like Jesus.

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One Comment on “Are You Unsuccessful When Setting Boundaries? Here’s Something I’ve Found to Be Remarkably Helpful: Acts 16:35-40

  1. Pingback: Who’s Your Father? Acts 17:1-15 | God Running

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