lines 3

Borders. Walls. Edges. Fences. This far and no further. Last warning that we’re about to go too far. Intentional separations from what we fear and from what we don’t like. Division between what is allowed and what is not allowed.

“Picking sides” may require that we draw a “line in the sand”. Sometimes it seems that there is a fine line between right and wrong. Delineating our point of view may make someone feel that we’ve crossed the line into their choices. We may be required to line up our priorities with those who are in charge. We are encouraged to toe the line and color inside the lines. A foul line in baseball denotes the inches between whether a hit is a foul or a home run. Signing on the bottom line is a formal commitment, enforceable by law. Our lives are judged and often defined by the “lines” we honor and the “lines” we draw.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line or even if we should. Refusing to draw lines can make us tolerant of evil and susceptible to worldly philosophy. Refusing to see the point of view on the other side of our carefully drawn lines can make us judgmental and legalistic.

Lines are problematic for Christians. We don’t want to cross the line of law into sin; we don’t want to cross the line of love into tolerance of sin. There is a vast difference between focusing on the boundary placed by God for our protection and instruction, and focusing on the God who calls us to obey.

Disobedience comes when we take it upon ourselves to draw new lines, rather than honor the lines that God has drawn. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor.” (Matt 2:39) He also said not one dot of the law will pass from the law until all is accomplished.  (Matt 5:19) What happens when my lines intersect your lines? Where is the line between sin and obedience? Between helping and enabling? Between purity for myself and respect for others? Between loving the sinner and obeying my God? Can we travel parallel paths and respect each other across the line?

The Pharisees defined themselves by enforcing the lines they chose to draw. I suspect they started out with good motives. They wanted to honor God; they wanted to help others honor God. But they eventually became more focused on the line that separated them from disobedience than they were in the God they were trying to honor.

How different would our lives look if we were more interested in obeying God in all things than in walking as close to the line as we can get without crossing it? If we focused on God, rather than on the things that separate us from others? When we focus on our “lines”, we miss seeing God. The lines drawn by the laws in Bible are to protect us from sin…they can become sin for us when we focus on the lines to the exclusion of God. May God forgive us for the lines we draw that are outside his will and for refusing to draw the lines that help us become salt and light when the world demands that we blend in.