Monday, October 6, 2008

The Line in the Sand

To clarify the previous post...

We really rockin', ultra-cool Bible Study Ladies were talking about names people had called us over time that affected who we are now. Someone brought into the discussion that a family member of hers had been offended by being called "conservative right." A discussion ensued about whether "conservative right" and "liberal left" are derogatory terms. It seems that it mostly depends on context. In some situations these labels are offensive and in some situations they aren't. (So, for those of you who were hoping for an answer, my apologies.)

The end part of the unheated discussion went something like this:

The Other Lady (TOL): Jesus was conservative right.

Me (MidnightCafe or MC): Well, next week I'll have to wear the t-shirt that reads "Jesus is a Liberal." [this was teasing, but also to provoke some thought]

TOL: I don't think so [that Jesus was a Liberal]. Jesus drew a line in the sand.

MC: I do, too. That doesn't mean I have to vote Republican.

TOL: [something I don't remember]

MC: I have really big feelings about this.

Ok, so here's how I, personally, understood the line in the sand comment. I did not associate it with the story where Jesus drew a line in the sand. I associated it with the idea of having boundaries, morals & values. defines "draw a line in the sand" as a figure of speech meaning:

"to set a limit; allow to go up to a point but no further."

As in, "I have lines that I will not cross." I'm not totally sure, but I'm thinking that's what TOL was talking about.

James Dunigan at Park Hill Church of Christ said it this way:

When the lines of compromise are drawn we cannot cross it. We cannot swap sides back and forth. We as God’s people must have the courage and strength of character to remain faithful to God’s word no matter who dares us to cross over their lines drawn in the sand and join their side. Whatever line is drawn before you make sure you always step to the side God is on!

But I wanted to talk for a minute about another way that "drew a line in the sand" can be interpreted, and where in scripture the idea comes from. John 8:3-8 says this:

3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

I can't think of a better way to express the sentiment of this passage than Pastor John Frye in his blog at: Jesus The Radical Pastor:

The time that Jesus drew a line in the sand
The scandalous woman lived; sent away forgiven
While blood stones lay unused on the ground,
Once held by self-confessed sinners.

What is our line in the sand?
Does it heal, forgive, give hope and life?
Is it a life line or a line of dark challenge,
signaling separation, judgment and death?

Go click on the blog & read the rest of what he wrote. It's beautiful.

So, Jesus' writing in the sand wasn't about morals and values at all. It was about forgiveness. It isn't even clear that what he wrote in the sand was a line. Maybe He was writing words:


I don't know. Maybe it was just a line. In any case, I'm not crossing it.

Whatever line it is, whether it's about having some morals and values I will not compromise or whether it's about crossing the line into judgment, I'm staying on this side.

And I don't think the conservative right has the corner on the market. Not on morals and not on forgiveness. To be clear, I don't think the liberal left does, either. More often, though, I hear the conservative right claiming that corner and casting judgment stones at the liberal left.

1 comment:

Heather of the EO said...

I like the two distinctions you made. I had been thinking about the throw the first stone passage too.
Thank you for clarifying the conversation! :)

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