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Lines in the Sand

Happy New Year! There, we got that out of the way. My last blog was in December of 2019, so this one kicks off 2020. There are so many things we could write and discuss, but I decided to build off some info that came across my email. You may have seen it as well.

Before noting what was written, I want to make sure that whoever is reading this understands that I am not talking about the church I pastor or the church anyone reading this attends. Please, please keep that in mind because I do not want to be misunderstood or misrepresented.

The reason I decided to blog on the following is because the title caught my eye and I thought to myself, “this could apply to everyone in their particular life situations” though the circumstances may be different. Let me explain by first mentioning what led me to write this blog.

It was a podcast by Thom Rainer titled “Four Occasions When A Pastor Should Draw A Line In The Sand.” The four discussed were:

When there is a threat to core and foundational Biblical issues. This is speaking of heresy. An example would be saying Jesus is not the only way to heaven, a denial of teachings such as the Deity of Christ, the resurrection, etc.

When the pastor’s family is being attacked. This is actually quite rare. The word “attacked” centers around the intent behind what someone is saying.

When there is a toxic person wreaking havoc. Not every church has a toxic person. This type of person is one who has a pattern of continuously trying to cause negativity in the church, to undercut what the church is doing. They are consistently on the attack.

When the church refuses to reach beyond its walls. This is pretty self-explanatory. Some churches, and I have not been in one myself, have no desire to reach outside its walls.

Now whether I would have the same “four occasions” to draw a line in the sand as Rainer, I do understand where he is coming from and do not disagree with him on any of his points. The podcast goes into more detail explaining the four noted. What I have done is mention what they listed and discussed and gave you a brief thought on what they were saying.

I did so to give us some bearings for what will be said in the rest of what I am sharing.

Each one of us, I believe, especially if we are a follower of Christ, is going to have to, on occasion (metaphorically we could say), “draw a line in the sand.”

That may mean confronting a person who is destroying others with their words. Or when someone is causing problems at work, school, church, etc., by their actions or things they are saying.

Maybe someone is causing problems at work by their laziness, and spends time complaining about their job and is hurting the company. Who knows what might be your lines? What is important to keep in mind is that not everything requires a line being drawn. As we shall see in a moment, that is where discernment must come into play.

For a Christian, it would include standing for the truth of God’s Word, which is increasingly under attack in our world today. And this is not always easy because of the viciousness of how people might respond when we do so. We know some will be less than kind. But…we still must draw a line and be willing to speak up.

Lines in the sand are not always bad things. Discernment, as noted, is important to know when and how to deal with a situation. There is a verse in 1 Chronicles that I think applies, not only to the time when David was king over Israel, but to each one of us in the present day.

1 Chronicles 12:32 is speaking of men from the Jewish tribe of Issachar. It says regarding the day in which they lived, that they were “understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” They “understood the times.” They seemed to have some good discernment on what Israel “ought to do.”

The word “understood” is linked with wisdom. Wisdom is the practical application of God’s Word to life situations. At least that is how I define it. We need wisdom when it comes to knowing what to “draw a line” over. That line may be different for some.

Stephen Renn, in his defining the word, ties it to having “keen insight” or, and here is the word again that is important, “discernment.”

The passage does not go into detail on what those situations may have been in which discernment was needed, but this was a group of people whose reputation was seen in their ability to determine a course of action.

Discernment is the ability to look at a situation and determine what course of action to take. Some people can easily do it; others require a little more time to make the decision. We are all different, but knowing what to do is so important when it comes to drawing lines.

Maybe you have had to draw a line in the sand at some time in your life. As mentioned earlier, those lines may be different for each of us. I wondered if there were some questions we could ask ourselves so we too would be “understanding” and so we could know what we “ought to do.” I came up with a few. You may have different questions or more to be added but here are a few.

1) Is Biblical truth under attack? We are not talking about, in my opinion, issues such as whether Jesus returns before, during, or after the tribulation. We all agree He is going to return. Core beliefs include, but are not limited to, views of the Triune God, the Deity of Christ, His Virgin birth, resurrection from the dead, He being the only way to Heaven, the infallibility and total trustworthiness of Scripture, to name several “truths.” I will draw a line in the sand over foundational beliefs.

2) Is the situation destructive? Some people just talk. They say things that, yes, they should not say. But not everyone who says something negative is destructive. A person who is continually negative, our causing dissension, or gossips or slanders others, needs to be confronted. It could be a work, school, family, or church situation. The question revolves around what the outcome to their intent is. We need to ask them “why” questions but put a stop to it.

3) Is the situation Biblically offensive? I am not sure that I can easily explain what I mean. I do think people get offended over all kinds of things. Some of you have experienced that. You felt that anything you said would be taken wrong. That seems to be a pattern in our culture today, and sadly, sometimes even Christians can be offended over everything said or done.

I think, though, that when someone does something to others that is Biblically a sin, a line must be drawn. This question does, in some respects, build off the previous question.

Maybe the following helps present some clarity. I know that I have said things I wish I had never said, done things I wish I had never done, and had both done to me. I have, sad to say, offended folks whom I had to go and ask forgiveness from. That does happen, even to Pastors. I may have offended someone unintentionally, and even if I may have seen things differently than they did on an issue that caused the problem, we sometimes just need to take the high road and clear things up.

I personally have also made the decision that some things simply are not worth my energy to respond to or deal with. But I do believe, because we are to love God and people (Matthew 22:37-40), we may have to draw a line when someone goes against Biblical truth and wreaks havoc by things they are saying and doing. There is a time to say enough is enough.

And when we do speak the truth (Biblical truth) some people will be offended. 1 Corinthians 1 tells us that the cross (truth) is a stumbling block to some. But we still must teach it. And when someone is offended by the truth that we lovingly stood for, we cannot erase the line of truth to make them happy. We may have to live with the offense they took upon themselves.

I just don’t have a “one answer fits” all when it comes to this stuff. I have been in ministry for nearly forty years and I still wrestle with my own human frailty and how to respond in every situation. Hang in there and keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.


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