Friendships Are Meant to Be Messy
No relationship is going to be perfect or pretty all the time. Friendships are meant to be messy and we should embrace the work necessary to hold relationships together.
There’s been a big push in recent years to create boundaries.
Mental and spiritual health experts tell us to set boundaries around how we interact with people, allow them to influence us, take advantage of us, hurt us.
And it’s true that as Christians we aren’t meant to be carpets, to let people walk all over us, as though our kindness is fair game. We should not allow others to manipulate or exploit our emotions or our good intentions.
However, this whole boundaries thing? It’s gone a little too far.
Because what’s supposed to be meant for good—creating boundaries designed to protect our hearts and souls from ungodly influence—is now often brandished as an excuse for not putting up with anything or anyone who ruffles our feathers.
Newsflash: Everyone, at some point, will ruffle your feathers. Even the people you love the best. Especially the people you love the best. Because we’re all sinners.
And yet I’m seeing a trend in which Christians, who are designed to be in relationship with one another, are instead building walls around themselves, refusing to allow others past the gate—all in the name of boundaries.
That’s not God’s plan.
So here’s a little truth bomb, delivered with love.
God doesn’t care about your boundaries.
He cares about your heart. And how can He reach it when it’s wrapped inside a wall?
Ironically, God often uses other people—our relationships, the very things we question when they cease to serve us well—to speak to our hearts, to shape us, teach us, challenge us, and to make us more like Christ. And I’m not just talking about our easy relationships; sometimes it’s the tricky ones that shape us the most.
We miss an opportunity when we “can’t handle her drama” or “need to walk away from his negativity.” Is that how Jesus approached the woman at the well? Is it what He told Martha when she scolded Him? Is it how He poured into his clueless and bickering disciples?
Is it how he handles YOU and your drama, your mistakes, your complaining, your faults?
Of course not.
If the goal were to remain free from external influence until the day we die, to build boundaries that protect us from getting up close and personal with other people’s sin, then God would not have planted us in families, in communities, in churches and schools and neighborhoods. We’d all be monks, living in isolation on a hillside where no one could touch us—and we could touch no one.
And the Great Commission would remain unfulfilled.
One place I see this play out in everyday life—is in our small groups. Our close “church people” gatherings.
My husband and I have been involved in several small fellowship groups over the years, and in every case there comes a point where the get-to-know-you honeymoon is over and you start to see the ugly parts of people’s lives. You catch a glimpse of their flaws, their vices, and their blind spots (and they see yours, too).
You might not like what you see in people when you get close to them. It might irritate you or even hurt you.
And that’s when we face a crossroads. Do we run for the exit, or forge ahead?
The misapplied “boundaries” approach would say get out of there.
But God’s Word says lean in.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Why do you think God wants us to love people through the hard stuff? To stick it out and invest in others even when it’s not immediately pleasant or rewarding?
Because our relationships and our character grow stronger through adversity. Learning to resolve conflict, to understand people on a deeper level, and to connect through a common bond in Christ, iron sharpening iron—even if it’s not enjoyable, it is the greater reward.
And? As parents, we need to remember our children are watching. They’re growing up in a culture where friends will drop friends like hot coals—especially in middle school and high school. How do we begin teaching them to see their relationships as opportunities to go deeper, pressing into the difficulties, learning how to carry the burden of knowing someone to their vulnerable, damaged core, because doing so actually leads to spiritual maturity, and—Scripture says—fulfills the law of Christ?
We model it for them.
That’s a start.
So. How are you doing in this area? Are you willing to make yourself available for relationships that might be messy and unpleasant, but worth the effort for the glory of God?
Let’s loosen our boundaries, just a bit. And see what amazing work God can do.