Throughout the ages men have tried to define the plane at which good and evil meet, separate, collide, or become definable. Adam and Eve struggled with this issue in the Garden of Eden. It boiled down to a matter of semantics as Satan convinced Eve she would not surely “die” if she just tasted of the forbidden fruit. Since that day, we have drawn a line between our perceptions of wrong and right, holy and unholy, and sin and righteousness.
Moses and the children O Israel used the Ten Commandments as their line between good and evil. As long as one stayed on the right side of the line, he was okay. The result was a group of people whose focus shifted to the line rather than the purpose of the line. Over time, the line that was designed to protect Israel became a designation of the boundaries of righteousness. Throughout the Old Testament, people, as a majority lived according to the dictates of that line. Because of their focus on the line, the One who had drawn the line was relegated to an obscure location somewhere in the recesses of their minds. Even among the sincere, the purpose of the line became blurred.
As with any boundary, the placement of the line was a constant source of contention. Some wanted to move the line to the right while others proposed that the line be moved to the left. Still others wanted to be the line judge, quick to condemn any who would step too close to, on, or across the s. red line.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth concerning this focus on the line. All Scripture is given of the inspiration of the omnipresent God. Therefore, we are assured that God Himself was the Author of the words penned in II Corinthians 3:6, “Who hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not o’ the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”
These words are tucked in a passage that alluded continually to Moses and the children of Israel. Without question, God had grown agitated that His chosen people were focused on the line instead of Him. The love that was once evident had evolved into an obligation to fulfill in order to avoid punishment and/or disapproval. God did not abolish the line, He simply called for a shift in focus. Paul was well aware that people focused on the Spirit would have no problem with the edicts of the letter. In other words, if the early church concentrated their thoughts and efforts toward God, the line would be located behind them. As they progressed toward God, the line (or letter) would be adhered to effortlessly. At that point the line became an armor of protection instead of a source of contention. The line had moved neither to the left nor to the right. It remained in the ideal location where God had placed it in the beginning.
We understand that true love motivates a person to please the object of that love. A husband brings flowers to his wife not out of a sense of fear or obligation, but out of the pleasure they induce in his beloved. A wife and mother don’t prepare her family’s favorite meal to avoid punishment. Rather, she does so to see the delight it brings. True love does not look at the line. True love has an object not an objective. As Christians, we must be careful to have our focus on Jesus and not on some criteria set forth as a minimum for inclusion in His family.
The questions a person asks are indicative of whether his focus is on the line or on Jesus.
Can I wear this and still be considered holy? vs Is this the type of garment that is most pleasing to my Savior?
Is this music okay to listen to? vs Is this music the most edifying that I can listen to?
May I engage in this activity and not be considered “worldly?” vs Is this activity wholesome and godly?
What is the minimum amount of time that I should spend in prayer? vs Can I find more time to spend talking to
Statements people make also reveal much about their focus and where they have established their thoughts. When a person begins to vocalize their doubt in the long accepted standards of holiness, their motivation is often to gain support for compromise.
I really don’t see anything wrong with…
I think it is okay to go to the…
The preacher doesn’t have the right to tell me…
I don’t see why I shouldn’t own a…
The Bible doesn’t say that it is a sin to…
It is not a sin to wear a little…
God doesn’t mind if I…
Twice in Proverbs we are admonished not to tamper with landmarks.
“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28)
“Remove not the old landmarks; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless.” (Proverbs 23:10)
Jeremiah warned us not to waver in our ways.
“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good war, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
The letter still applies. The line is still in place. The landmark still keeps us from wandering. We must still walk in the old paths. But as has always been the case, our inclusion into the body depends upon the direction of our purpose and vision. If our eyes are upon the line, we will lose our focus on God. If we set our eyes and affections on Jesus and seek His pleasure, the line will become inconsequential and serve only to protect. Keep your eyes on Jesus – Don’t look at the line!
Billy Hudson is a member of Little River UPC in Tickfaw, LA.
This article “Don’t Look at the Line” written by Billy Hutson was excerpted from the Louisiana Challenger