I’m currently reading through the Pentateuch again. If you’ve read the first five books of the Bible, you’ve probably noticed that God gives his people a lot of laws and demands their obedience. As I read through this time, however, I’ve noticed how often God says He wants to bless His people.

Even the horrible things God promises will happen if His people don’t obey him are couched in the context of His desire to bless— 

I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” —Deuteronomy 30:19  

He truthfully warns that sin leads to consequences and death. He reiterates time and again His desire to make Israel His blessed people.

God is, and has always been, a God of boundaries. Blessed boundaries. Boundaries of love and protection. Boundaries that encourage holiness, which puts me in the way of more blessing. 

In God’s economy, boundaries = love. 

So, if I’m going to parent like God parents me, I want and need to be a parent of boundaries. 

The difference between God’s boundaries and my boundaries

But here’s the huge catch: I’m not perfect like God is. 

I will never be able to say that the limitations and rules I use in parenting are always motivated by genuine, selfless, eternity-driven love. I make up stupid “You can’t leave your room til you’re 30!” type rules. I’m often driven by fear when I have to decide whether to let my kids hang out with certain friends. 

In other words, God’s boundaries are always perfect and intended for blessing. Mine aren’t. So, is it better not to use my often-flawed, imperfect boundaries so I won’t mess up my kids’ view of God’s boundaries?

Called to discipline and disciple

Not according to Ephesians 6:1-4:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

In verses 1-3, my children are told to obey and honor me (as God’s representative) and are given a promise of well-being and blessing— very similar to the Israelites. 

Then, in verse 4, God makes it clear that my role is to do everything I can to make that happen for them, using discipline and instruction— AKA discipleship. Those two words are “loving boundary” words.

Discipline imposes and enforces boundaries. Discipleship trains the heart to embrace and delight in the boundary-Giver.

We will never be able to do this perfectly, but this is our calling. God does this for us as He parents us perfectly (Hebrews 12)— and, in doing so, He provides the perfect parenting example for us.

Discipline imposes and enforces boundaries. Discipleship trains the heart to embrace and delight in the boundary-Giver.

So how can we be Father-imitating parents when it comes to boundaries? 

Model delight in and obedience to God’s boundaries. 

My cheerful, faith-driven obedience to God proves that I truly believe His boundaries are for my good and intended to bless me. My delight and obedience in His boundaries validates my demand that my children obey my boundaries.

If I don’t believe that the limitations God places on me as His daughter are good and right, I won’t succeed in convincing my kids they are either. 

If I declare that God’s boundaries are arbitrary, search for loopholes, or in other ways try to wriggle out from under them— I shouldn’t be surprised when my kids do the same to my boundaries.

If I chafe against the limitations God’s Word puts on me— all the things I can’t do and places I can’t go because I’m a Jesus follower— I’m not seeing God’s laws as a path to blessing, and I can be sure my kids won’t either.

As always, parents, it starts with our hearts and behavior first. Model for your kids what joyful obedience looks like. 

Establish boundaries with careful purpose. 

Because God is God, we know that every single one of His laws and rules— and every command we receive in the New Testament— has a kingdom-driven purpose. God wants to save and sanctify us, and His commands serve that purpose in different ways. 

I should be careful that the rules and limitations used in my home have kingdom-driven purposes also. 

Order and routine glorify God and use our time and physical strength wisely. Good habits (reading, working, studying, helping, serving others) train us to be good citizens and believers that glorify God and serve others. Restrictions help us avoid or flee temptation. 

As our children grow, we should be talking through the “why” of our boundaries as part of their discipleship. Every rule should be based on a biblical principle—  and should therefore have the potential to help grow our children’s perspective of God and the Christian life. 

Make boundaries all about staying on the path of true blessing. 

Okay, this one is tricky because we could easily stray into an unhealthy legalism that is anti-gospel. 

Let me start by defining “true blessing.” 

The world, and worldly Christians, define blessing in terms of material or emotional well-being and happiness. But the Bible has a different definition of blessing. Jesus says that those who are poor in spirit, and the meek, and the merciful, and the pure in heart are blessed (Matthew 5:3-12). 

Why are they considered blessed? Because theirs is the kingdom of heaven, they will receive mercy, they will inherit the earth (not right this minute, though— notice the future verb tense!), and they will see God. 

Do you believe God’s definition of true blessing? Do you pursue it? 

As you set boundaries for yourself and your kids, motivate each other with the true blessing that Jesus promises will be yours. Explain that the household rules and limitations are all about training— they’re designed to help us stay on the path of true blessing. They can also help us detect and reject false paths.

Blessed, blessed boundaries

Boundaries are the very good and wise idea of a good and perfect Creator, and I want to imitate Him in my parenting. I pray that you do, too. May you delight in His good work in your life and share that good work with your children through blessed, blessed boundaries.