So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
Where do you draw the line? I thought of that issue when Brother Andrew—the man often described as “God’s Smuggler”—sat at lunch with me and a group of friends and of being severely criticized because he had reached out to the Hezbollah, in an attempt to bring peace between them and Israel. “Anybody who is a friend to them is an enemy to Israel,” said his critics.
In her book, Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot told how her first husband, Jim, who was martyred at the hands of the Aucas (now known as the Waoranis), felt that he had gone way too far in their dating and courtship when he sat close to her, elbows touching, and he took the back of his hand and gently let it slide across her face. Today we are miles down the road from where she was, yet, couples today—even as conscientious kids did in the 50’s—still ask the question, “Where do we draw the line?”
Talking with a businessman whose company is floundering brought up the same subject. There are some practices which are in a kind of nether-world, not clearly defined by law, where shrewd operators whose primary concern is making money do what others refuse to do: They draw no lines.
Imelda Marcos says that it’s the perception of truth—not truth itself—which is important. Yet at some point you have to draw the line and say, “No, if I lead you to believe something and I know it is untrue, I’ve deceived you just as certainly as though I deliberately lied to you.” So, if truth is so flexible as to become true simply because you shout it loudly enough or tell it often enough, then the line between truth and falsehood changes every day.
Parents have to draw a line as well, saying, “This far and no farther!” So how do you decide? Conscience? Culture? Or the test of what God says in His Word?
First there is the test of Scripture. The issue rapidly evaporates when you are willing to submit your life to the direction of God’s Word, the Bible, because in far more situations than most people are aware of, drawing the line is a non-issue. The Bible says clearly, “This is right! This is wrong!” While most issues are black and white, other situations, however, are not so clearly defined.
There is a second test—that of how drawing the line or not drawing the line will affect others—your wife, your husband, your neighbors, your testimony as a Christian, even your boss. Rotarians, a service club, asks their members to filter what they say through three questions: Is it needful? Is it kind? Is it true? Sometimes failing to draw a line makes a more powerful statement than saying, “Here’s where I draw the line” because ignoring situations means that you condone something and become party to it by doing nothing.
But there is another issue. If you were on the other side of the line, how would you respond? Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
The third test is that of conscience as you ask, “What is the right thing to do?” Drawing a line based on conscience is valid only if your values are in line with God’s expectations, but for you who have grown up with a sense or right and wrong, drawing a line which is consistent with what you know to be right will put you on the conservative side of the issue.
A final thought: If you are still uncertain where to draw the line, better come down on the side of caution. Better to err on the side of being safe than playing it loosely. Ask God’s help in knowing where to draw the line, and then make your mark.
Resource reading: Nahum 1:1-15