“Sometimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength. We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth and value, but because we finally realize our own.”
This quote has always struck me as admirable yet confusing at the same time. As someone who wants to follow Christ and love His people to the utmost, how could walking away from someone ever seem like a good idea? What I’ve been learning lately is that not only can we place boundaries between us and those who are weighing us down, but we SHOULD place those boundaries- for our protection, strength, and growth.
I argued against this for a while because I couldn’t remember reading anywhere in Scripture that we must “shut the door” in someone’s face, especially someone we are friends with or close to. I was wrong. There is Scripture on this matter. Jesus himself “shut the door” in people’s faces. This is something we are quick to miss, but must learn now if we want to grow in our faith and protect ourselves from negativity and sin.
Jesus had twelve disciples, his very close friends. This is our first clue. He didn’t have an inner circle consisting of five hundred people. He carefully chose twelve men. Likewise, we cannot expect to have a thriving ministry and restful life if we are trying to teach and encourage and keep up with five hundred people all the time. Having an inner circle relatively small is both useful and vital.
What’s important to note is that Jesus didn’t select who he would or would not love. He just selected who he would or would not invite into his personal life. We must never think that love can be looked over by us or was ever looked over by Jesus.
I can talk about those pesky Pharisees, the ones who always tried to call Jesus out for his “blasphemy”. We already should know some of the things he said about them, like how he called them hypocrites and told them they were filled with “bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).
What I’d rather highlight right now to really drive home my point is a story in the book of Mark. I heard a message on this topic using this passage in Mark a couple years ago. It really stuck with me, and I never knew when it would come in handy. Lately, it has, and I now want to share this wisdom and insight with you.
In chapter 5 of the book of Mark, we are given a short narrative of Jesus raising a girl from death.
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands onher so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. (Mark 5:21-24)
Pause. The next ten verses don’t tell of Jesus saving Jairus’ daughter. They actually consist of another story- one in which a woman touches Jesus’ cloak and is healed of her bleeding illness. Some of you may be familiar with that story. You see, on the way to Jairus’ house, Jesus intentionally stops to talk to this woman and listen to her. He heals her and then tells her to go in peace. Can you imagine the impatience and frustration Jairus must have felt? His daughter was dying!
The story of Jesus and Jairus’ daughter is picked up again in verse 35.
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:35-43)
I want you to pay close attention to the parts I bolded.
Jesus was careful of who he allowed to come with Him to the house. Why? The rest of the people believed Jairus’ daughter was dead and Jesus could not save her. They doubted, and because of that, he chose to leave them behind.
When he finally reached the house, he stumbled upon a group of people crying and mourning over the girl’s death. They laughed at Jesus when he stated all was well. Yes, he had healed people before. They saw the miraculous signs and wonders he performed. People knew of his abilities. Yet in the face of what looked like hopelessness, there was no faith among them.
How did Jesus respond? He didn’t lecture them. He didn’t try to convince them. He didn’t make them watch and see him do the things they didn’t think he could do. He put them all out. He, so to speak, “shut the door” in their faces. He then raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.
Why is this significant? I want you to see the boundaries that Jesus placed in his life to block the negativity and doubt he faced. Like Jesus, we are bound to face people who will laugh at us or make accusations at us. We will come across people who won’t believe in our capabilities. There will be people who will want to make us feel guilty or worthless. You may already be able to think of a few people in your life right now who fit some of those descriptions.
Did Jesus love the people who doubted him and laughed at him any less? Absolutely not. How could he? He is a God of perfect love. God is love (1 John 4:16-18).
But did Jesus shut people out of his life at times? You bet he did. If he didn’t put up with negative influences, why do we? We must choose who we allow into our inner circles, who we allow into our personal lives and ministry.
Some relationships are toxic. It’s unfortunate, but true. This is why healthy boundaries are necessary. In order to protect ourselves so we can best serve and run after our goals, those relationships may need to be severed. Just like Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife as soon as she crossed a line, we must walk with wisdom and maybe even RUN. Joseph didn’t stick around to share his faith with this seductive woman or see if maybe a “resolution” could come about. He high-tailed out of there!
I can offer advice or tips on how to sever relationships or determine what boundaries need to be placed, but I honestly don’t know much. I am learning just like most. I don’t have much experience in ending relationships and I certainly don’t want to speak for God in such a black-and-white way on a matter that consists of so much grey area.
What I do want, however, is to encourage you to re-evaluate some of the harmful and discouraging friendships or relationships you have in your life. It’s rarely easy to end relationships, but I know God can provide a peace and comfort amidst the separation.
Referring back to the quote I opened this post with, we need to realize our value, our true identity in Christ. We do not need to seek approval from people or measure up to those who are constantly weighing us down.
We have a responsibility to protect ourselves if we want to grow in our faith and ministry. With all of this being said, it is now time to contemplate on the negativity you are allowing in your life.
Now breathe in, and breathe out. It’s time to let go and allow ourselves to heal.