What the Bible says about Forgiveness, Judging Others and Setting Boundaries.
When it comes to being Christian there is usually an emphasis on being gentle as doves, forgiving your neighbour, turning the other cheek… etc.
However, what I’ve found a lot of the time is that this ethos gets exploited by unscrupulous and abusive people who have no intentions of repenting, changing or making amends. Dr Ramini is a great YouTube psychologist I would recommend and she outlined in a video which I’ll link underneath how all the characteristics of being Christian are especially targeted by narcissists.
Her list of characteristics is:
- Overly empathic
- Positive people
- Children of narcissists
I know for myself I fit into all 5 categories and I know how those traits have been exploited in the past, especially by my narcissistic mother. Talking about empathy was a big part of my previous channel and website, but mostly I warned against having your empathy triggered and utilised by the wrong people. Unfortunately, that is sound psychological advice to prevent someone being abused, but a person’s good nature can make them susceptible to guilt trips and coercion if they don’t know where the lines are and how to enforce them.
So this begs the question: does God permit boundaries for us, and if so, how do we navigate that? When should we judge and when should we forgive? What does forgiveness mean and what does it mean to love your neighbour as yourself?
Jesus said that the first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your strength and all your might, and the second is like it; you must love your neighbour as you love yourself (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37 & John 13:34).
The example he gives of neighbourly love is the parable of the good Samaritan who saves a man’s life. The biblical definition of love is the protection, care and respect of human life. It’s almost a neutral state of simply doing the right thing, regardless of who the person is, whether you’ll get anything out of the arrangement, or if you have to go out of your way to do it.
In many ways it can be described by ethos; no man left behind. It’s simply the right thing to do, and to do otherwise would be callous.
Now, was the man that the Samaritan assisted trying to kill him or steal from him? No.
However, the bible does say in Luke 6:27-31 (NRSV) you should love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt… Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Jesus goes on to say that even sinners will love people who love them back and do good to people who do good to them. If people are behaving nicely towards you, then it’s pretty easy to simply do the same in return, but it gets really difficult to do when people are nasty towards you. In this way, Christians are supposed to set themselves apart from the rest of the world and not lower themselves to the terrible standards of others around them.
1 Peter 3:13-16 (NRSV) says; Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.
I know from past experience that people absolutely hate it when you don’t degrade yourself by stooping to their level. It aggravates them to no end if you maintain a standard which is above theirs and you’ll usually be attacked for it. They’ll call you arrogant, tell you that you have a superiority complex, that you’re fake, or actually being mean to them.
What they’re really saying is; your behaviour is making my own behaviour look dreadful in comparison and I can’t stand it.
It’s one of the big reasons why people hate God in the first place, because He sets such a high standard which shows theirs up as being corrupted and the shame that it evokes in them is something they don’t want to deal with. They would rather reject God and be lost for eternity than admit their failings and try to do better.
This is why Jesus says that if the world hates you, it’s because it hated Him first and the world only loves people who are of the world, not people who are of God (John 15:18-19).
Romans 12:14-21 outlines advice on how to act with different people in different situations, but specifically is advises; Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
But the other reason why they want to provoke you into a reaction is because it provides some twisted justification for their behaviour. They’re supposed to abuse you, because you deserve it… just look at how you reacted when they abused you! Clear case of someone who deserved it.
The thing is, most people spend a lot of their lives running from God and hiding from the light, and on an instinctive level they know that true believers who are seeking after God will shine a light on their shadows and expose them. Even people in church do it. I’ve known people who call themselves Christian but do all sorts of unscrupulous things and are trying to hide it or refuse to repent, refuse to acknowledge that they’ve made an error. What they probably don’t realise is that they aren’t saved unless they’ve repented.
When I left witchcraft a lot of people said they hated church because of those types of Christians who had abused them in the past and they claimed that I couldn’t possibly understand. The thing is, I know that hypocrisy well because I was raised by an abusive narcissistic mother who believes that she’s a perfect Christian even when she emotionally and psychologically tortured me and my brother for hours on end when I was 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old… Even when she kidnapped me when I was 13, took me interstate and tried to cut me off from knowing my dad. Even when she called me a little a$$hole as a toddler, or a b!tc#, or told me she doesn’t like me, or called me an animal, or slapped me across the face, or grabbed me by the hair, or burned my clothes, or threw a metal pole at me, or left me abandoned in public places for hours on end, or didn’t even notice that I stopped talking for a year in high school…
I know exactly what those people are like, and that’s the whole reason Christians are not supposed to be like that; because it alienates other people from God. They see Him represented by the worst hypocrites imaginable and they cannot get behind such a thing.
They think that God indulges it.
That is not true.
The bible teaches that love is boundaries and care, not abuse or indulgence.
Of course God doesn’t just allow people to be abused. That’s almost entirely what the bible is about. As Christians, you’re not allowed to extract revenge or behave in ways which are similar to the people of the world. You’re supposed to demonstrate what love actually looks like in a world which has a very cynical and exploitative version of love as its definition. You have to act as God’s representatives on earth.
However, God also declares is that “vengeance is mine!” (Deuteronomy 32:35 & Romans 12:19) which means that we are not the ones to seek recompense, but instead we are told to pray for those who abuse us. The purpose of this is so that they might undergo their conviction during their lifetime and thus be saved.
Everyone has to reckon with God eventually, it’s just a matter of time. The aim of Jesus’ sacrifice was to draw as many souls back to God as possible before they die and become judged. However, they are going to be judged eventually as seen in Matthew 3:12 (NRSV) when John the Baptist says “His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” And again in Matthew 25:31-46 (NRSV) where Jesus describes sorting the sheep from the goats, saying; “you that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink…”
By the way, this stuff doesn’t necessarily apply to people who have never heard of Jesus, which is something non-believers like to try and use as an excuse for hating God. Jesus says in John 15:22 that if he had not spoken in front of people, they would still be without sin, but by seeing and then rejecting God, they are sealing their own fates. This means that people who have never heard of Jesus and cannot be expected to know of their salvation can still be accepted into heaven when they die depending on their life’s works.
God, above all else, is all about justice. He is holy, He is righteous, He is merciful, and He is just. Because of that, there have to be consequences. He will not permit injustices to go unanswered, so if people are avoiding repentance and the conviction of the Holy Spirit in order to be forgiven, that doesn’t mean it won’t catch up with them. Proverbs 11:21 (NRSV) says; Be assured the wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will escape.
But because God is all about justice and salvation, we can’t just leave people to rot in sin either. We’re actually obliged to correct their behaviour and expose darkness whenever we see it. Ephesians 5:11-13 (NRSV) says; Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible…
How should we judge others? Are we allowed to judge others?
Do not judge lest you be judged (Luke 6:37) is often used by people who wish to avoid being accountable for their actions. Yes, Jesus did say this, but He goes on, in Luke 6:41-42 (NRSV), to explain His meaning with;
Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “friend, let me take out the speck in your eye” when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.
So His advice is not to ever judge, but to engage in self-reflection and self-awareness before you do. How can we see clearly enough to help another, or to understand the right judgement when we refuse to look at our own foibles?
In Romans 2:1-11 (NRSV) it outlines how God judges us when we point the finger at others;
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things…
Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God?
…Do you not realise that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
But by your hard and impertinent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds…
…For God shows no partiality.
This especially applies to when we judge others and refuse to repent and rectify our own behaviour. So that particular point about self-reflection is hugely important.
Forgiveness is a major aspect of Christianity, but how do we apply it? In Matthew 18:21-22 (NRSV) it says; Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’ In Matthew 6:14-15 (NRSV) it says; For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The ability to forgive means that we can sometimes recover a friendship, as it says in Proverbs 17:9 (NRSV) One who forgives an affront fosters a friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend. We have to forgive others in our hearts and let go of anger and resentment so that we can receive forgiveness in return. We can’t be hypocritical. When someone is truly sorry for something they have done and they seek to repair the damage to the relationship, St. Paul has words of advice for how to receive them in 2 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NRSV); so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. Galatians 6:1 advises; My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.
Does forgiveness mean that we allow others back into our lives, or permit them to continue in the same behaviour if they haven’t said sorry, or if they keep doing the same things every time?
In Luke 17:3-4 Jesus says; Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, “I repent”, you must forgive.
One of the key features of that statement is repentance. People need to actually acknowledge their mistakes and seek to rectify them in order to repair the relationship, otherwise they’re not seeking a reciprocal relationship with you.
What about people who refuse to change? How do you create and maintain clear boundaries with people who persist in abusive behaviour?
The bible has advice about how to address behaviour with another person in Matthew 18:15-17 (NRSV) which says; ‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a gentile or a tax-collector.’
So Jesus is advising us to try talking in private so that the other person has an opportunity to fix a mistake without the embarrassment of it being public knowledge, but if they won’t accept any wrongdoing, you need to involve other witnesses to hold them accountable and then if that’s not enough you must stop associating with them. They’ve proved they’re untrustworthy at that point.
It’s important to separate yourself from people who are beyond help, or who are refusing to reform their own lives. The most important reason for this is because they will interrupt your walk with God by attempting to suck all of your time and attention away from Him and onto them. Usually with people like that they’re extraordinarily needy and it’s more than just being lazy or self-indulgent, its actually designed to put themselves into the position of a god in other people’s lives.
If you’ve ever dealt with narcissists you’ll probably know that they demand absolute fealty, attention, worship, prime position in your life, immediate compliance to all of their commands etc. You will not be allowed to put God first in your life if you’re dealing with a toxic person, even if they don’t have full-blown narcissistic personality disorder. Even just dealing with shades of it can be detrimental to your journey towards God.
In 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NRSV) it says; Do not be deceived: ‘bad company ruins good morals.’
Titus 3:10-11 (NRSV) says; After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions, since you know that such a person is perverted and sinful, being self-condemned.
1 Timothy 5:20(NRSV) says; As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest also may stand in fear. And 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 says; Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.
Unfortunately, sometimes people are just unable to undertake self-reflection, either by a lack of reasoning ability, or by believing that they don’t need other’s perspective, as in Proverbs 17:10 (NRSV) which says; A rebuke strikes deeper into a discerning person than a hundred blows into a fool.
The bible actually teaches that you need to cut off people who refuse to reform their ways, and that their behaviour should to be addressed. Permitting bad behaviour gives the wrong impression to others and may cause them to stumble, which is something the bible also condemns.
In Matthew 18:7 (NRSV) Jesus says; Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!
If we go back to the first commandment from Jesus to love God first and foremost with all your heart, we start to see where our priorities should lie. God comes first, then we must show compassion for others so that they have a glimpse of God’s love, but anyone who interferes with that journey is not to be given access in the same way that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, because God has boundaries and so must we.
As it says in Galatians 1:10 (NRSV); Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.