Love Does Have Boundaries

People say, "Love knows no boundaries," but the Torah's definition of "love" certainly does.

Jeremiah Michael

Theology

ethics love sexuality

The phrase “Love knows no boundaries!” is casually thrown around to such an extent that it is taken as truth.

Yes, we should show love and kindness to everyone despite his or her gender, creed, nationality, race, or sexual orientation. However, as believers and followers of Yeshua, we must realize that, in God’s economy, love does have boundaries and expectations for behavior. In fact, in God’s kingdom-love flourishes only within a system of set boundaries.

The Torah commands us to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

First, we are to love him with all our heart. According to the rabbis, this means we must love God with both our good and evil inclination, meaning, we are to control our passions.

Second, we are commanded to love the LORD with all our soul. This means that we should love God so much that we would rather lay down our lives for him than commit one of the three cardinal sins: idolatry, murder, and adultery.

Finally, we are commanded to love God with all our might, which refers to our money and material possessions.

The parallel passage in Deuteronomy 11 spells out in further detail the boundaries that exist in the love relationship between God and Israel:

You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always … and if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you. (Deuteronomy 11:1, 13-17)

This passage clearly communicates that God expects and demands Israel’s obedience, lest he withhold the rain and we perish from the land. The passage challenges the modern idea that love should not impose expectations or boundaries. God clearly demands obedience as a sign of our love for him.

That’s the Torah’s definition of love for God, but how does the Bible define love between people? Does it envision a society of people freely engaging in sexual pursuits without boundaries? A place where people have no demands placed upon them?

Just as the Bible defines our love for God as encompassing the three spheres of heart, soul, and might, the Torah also defines relationships between people along similar lines. Just as we are to love God with both our good inclination and evil inclination, we are also to love our fellow with our passions in check.

At the time that God redeemed Israel and gave the Torah, the people lived in a culture steeped in idolatry, murder, and sexual immorality. Like idolatry and murder, sexual deviancies such as incest and bestiality were perfectly normal in the ancient culture. The Torah imposes a strict system of sexual laws on Israel, codifying with whom we can and cannot have sexual relations. The Torah even places boundaries on men and women within the marriage. The Torah envisions a world in which sexual boundaries are respected and families are not torn apart by sexual deviancy.

The next area is that of loving God with our soul, which is defined as giving up your life, if necessary, to avoid committing idolatry, murder, or sexual immortality. For example, if someone tells you to either worship an idol or suffer death, you are to choose death. Likewise, if a bad guy threatens your life to try to force you into murdering an innocent victim, you are required to give up your own life rather than take the life of the stranger. In the same way, a person must not consent to commit an act of sexual immortality even if necessary to save his life. Those are love’s boundaries from a Torah perspective.

The third and final area from which we are commanded to love God is with our might, which refers to our money. In this area, too, we see a parallel with how we are to love our fellow. The Torah sets up an economic system that protects the poor but also places regulations upon business transactions in the economy to circumvent financial corruption and the abuse of the lower class. For example, the Torah commands that the corners of the field are to be left unharvested so that the poor may come and eat. The Torah also demands that we use equal weights and measures while doing business, meaning we are not to cheat our customers by using measuring tools in our favor.

People say, “Love knows no boundaries.” That’s not true for disciples of Yeshua. The Bible does place boundaries on love and expects us to conduct ourselves within these boundaries.

In a culture where standing up for values and boundaries equal “lack of love” or “judgmentalism,” we feel pressured to conform to society’s standards of freely accepting everyone’s sexual choices. However, having values, boundaries, and the courage to say, “This is wrong,” does not mean you lack love or mercy for those who choose to live outside of the Bible’s authority. It just means that, in our faith and the biblical worldview, love does have boundaries.

About the Author

Jeremiah Michael is pursuing a degree in rabbinic literature from at a university in Israel. His desire is to bring a greater understanding of Jewish literature to Messianic Judaism. Jeremiah lives in Israel with his wife and daughter.

Theology

ethics love sexuality

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