Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Line in the Sand

“A Line in the Sand”

About 3/4 of a mile from the house where I grew up, there was a fire tower. They used to be all over Virginia, but there are a lot fewer of them now.  Well, just for kicks we used to climb up to the top of that fire tower.  Whenever a car would come by, we'd flatten ourselves down against the platform so that nobody could see us.  We thought we were pretty smart until one night  when we were climbing the fire tower, we saw headlights, and we flattened down.  The car stopped in the driveway right beneath the tower.  Then we saw blue lights flashing, and heard the whoop, whoop of a siren.  Our hearts leapt in our throats as we knew we’d been caught in the act.  Silently, we prepared for the worst. Then the car sped away.  Either the officer had been called off to something more pressing, or he was just saying, "I see you up there, you'd better get down."  Well, we didn't want him to find us there when he got back, so those two teenage boys scampered down that fire tower just as fast as they could, and high-tailed it back home before we really got caught.

Momentarily, I knew the fear of being caught in the act--but for me there were no consequences.  I got lucky because generally, life offers consequences for those times when we step across the line.  In John 8:1-11, the woman who was caught in adultery faced life-and-death consequences for her transgressions.  She learned that if you cross the line often enough, your sins will catch up with you.

There’s a Buggs Bunny cartoon where the rabbit draws a line in the sand and says to Yosemite Sam, "I dare you to step over this line.”  Sam says, “Okay, I’m a’steppin!”  He steps across the line and Buggs steps back and draws another line.  "I dare ya to step over this one.”  Again, Sam steps across.  They repeat this over and over again.  Sam never notices that Buggs is leading him up a steep hill, and the final time he crosses the line he falls off a cliff.  Our sin is that way, when we step across the line.  We’re so short-sighted that all we can see is one small transgression.  We have no idea that our sin is leading us to our own destruction.

The religious people in the story dragged the woman before Jesus, demanding that she be stoned for her sins.  She learned that day that it’s often the religious ones who can be the most judgmental, drawing lines for everyone else’s behavior.  But Jesus stooped down and began drawing in the dirt.  He drew a line of protection in the sand that nobody dared cross.  (Perhaps that line consisted of the names of her accuser’s many girlfriends.)  Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”   One by one they leave, unable to cross the lines that Jesus has drawn.

In verses 10-11 (ESV), Jesus stood up and said to her, “’Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’  She said, “No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’”

We need to understand that just because Jesus rescued her, that doesn't mean that He condoned her actions.  Our culture says that if you love someone, then you must agree with everything that they do--you must condone their sin.  Jesus knew that this is far from the truth.  He said He didn’t condemn her, but He also called her behavior “sin.”  And he told her to stop it.  He called for her to commit herself to holy living.  She needed to draw some new lines in the sand—not for others, but for herself.  She needed to say “enough is enough” to her sin, and leave it behind.

Living a new life in Christ means being willing to draw some new lines in the sand, that are neither dares nor challenges.  They aren't restrictions or barriers, either.  They are like the lines drawn in the sand by early Christians.  In the days when being a Christian was illegal, they developed a secret way of identifying other believers in the marketplace.  When they met one another, one Christian would simply draw an arc in the dirt with his foot, and step back.  It was a nonchalant movement, something that wouldn't be discerned by those who weren't looking for it.  But if the other person was also a Christian, she would step forward and draw an arc of her own.  When her line in the sand intersected the first one, the two arcs became the Christian fish symbol.  

The lines in the sand that we draw shouldn't be designed to exclude others.  They should be an invitation to walk in unity with others, to discover fresh faith.  Today, I'd like to invite you to share in the forgiveness of Christ: to receive Jesus' pardon, and to commit yourself to living for Him, at one with the Lord and in unity with other believers.

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