Boundaries Are Difficult
If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Matthew 9:14
When life fell apart due to my addiction, it needed to fall apart. Addicts are rarely capable of just deciding to change. Transformation usually requires painful consequences. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter those who tried to gently turn me to sobriety. My employer needed me gone. The state made me leave the practice of medicine until I got help. My wife said we were done if I continued down my destructive path. She, nor anyone else, was going to travel the road of addiction with me, coaxing and begging me to turn around. If I wanted my life back, I had to change immediately.
As Christians, we sometimes think that we’re supposed to be all soft and kind. We imagine that being Christlike means we can only use words of support and sympathy. When someone fails to repent or recover, we attempt to turn him around with love. If only I can be supportive enough, maybe he’ll change. So, we pursue and we coddle, deceiving ourselves into thinking we’re being like Jesus.
In today’s passage though, Jesus taught almost the exact opposite when he sent his disciples out to spread his message. He knew the gospel wouldn’t be popular with everyone. In fact, he knew that most would spurn the kingdom of heaven. When the majority rejected him, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to pursue, coddle, and beg. Jesus told them to simply move on.
Shake the dust off your feet. Walk away. Continue down your own path, whether anyone goes with you or not. You’re not responsible for the choices of others. You’re only responsible for loving them, telling them the truth, and letting them make a choice (My paraphrase).
Boundaries are hard though, and they get harder the closer we are to the lost addict. When it’s a parent, child, or spouse, it can be awful. For our own sake though, and for the sake of those we love, we must strive to maintain necessary boundaries. The route of hand-holding and accommodation may be easy, but that’s enabling, and it rarely helps anyone. If we desire to live rightly and help those in need, then sometimes we just need to share the truth and walk away.