As a Host at a church camp retreat center, I have learned a lot. I have learned how to love when it is hard, how to treat others with the respect they do not always show respect back, how to be gracious when I do not feel appreciated, and so many other life lessons. However, if you were to ask me over a Grande Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks the most important lesson learned from my experiences at the retreat center, I would have to say that I clumsily learned how important it is to set boundaries. After my mistakes and through a search of the Scriptures, I am going to share four important lessons about setting boundaries while being hospitable.
- Set boundaries right away to avoid building inappropriate and unhealthy relationships.
I know what you’re thinking, and we aren’t talking about Ministry Safe or Safe Sanctuary stuff here. We are talking about your neighbor knocking on your door in the middle of the night because boundaries weren’t set from the beginning. We are talking about the acquaintance that has decided you are their own personal counselor and calls every day to talk about his/her problems in life. Without setting clear boundaries about what is okay, what is within your realistic limits, relationships can quickly become unhealthy.
- Boundaries must be set to protect your well-being, your safety.
If you are a young female, like me, then you know that it is not always safe to stop and help someone who is on the side of the road. It is okay to be cautious in some situations; it is also okay to say no when your safety is at risk. This is a tricky point to cover, though, because there may be times where you are called to stop for that man at the intersection who is asking for money or food. Being able to assess your environment is integral, and if you do not feel like it is safe, it is okay to say no and pray for the person in need. Prayer can (and should) be just as powerful and effective as helping.
- Without boundaries, you will feel like you are never enough.
In having a heart for hospitality, it can feel like you need to host everyone, that every stranger and every person in need must be helped. However, this way of thinking is exhausting, and it will eventually cause burnout.
- Jesus set boundaries.
This is the most important point, and I need to say it again. Jesus set boundaries. Jesus, who was fully divine yet fully human, had to set boundaries. Luke 5:15-16 cites that “the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sickness. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.” Jesus did not help everyone at one time when he was healing others. He could not physically heal everyone. Like Jesus, we are also called to withdraw and spend time with God and to rest.
In Mark 1, Jesus was praying by himself, and Simon came up to him. The people in the town were looking for Jesus, and Simon wanted Jesus to go back into the town. However, Jesus responded, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come” (Mark 1:38). Jesus knew when it was time to move on to the next thing. He knew that he could not linger in one town too long, even though his own disciples expected him to stay longer to minister to them.
We cannot do everything, and we cannot help everyone. We can, though, be present in every moment. We can love without inhibitions. We can pray without ceasing. We can be aware so that we can be open to opportunities for breaking down the boundaries that need to be broken down while holding onto boundaries that must be kept.
From an open table,