Sie sind auf Seite 1von 5

Crossing the Line

March 08, 2015

By John Partridge
Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17
John 2:13-22
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
American revolutionary Thomas Paine once wrote that the problem with the British system of government was
that there was no document that that draws a line in the sand and tells the government "thus far shalt thou go,
and no farther."
When General Santa Anna demanded the surrender of those defending the Alamo, Colonel William Travis
drew a line in the sand and asked everyone there to choose whether they would cross the line, fight and die
defending Texas, or to surrender. All but one man crossed the line.
At the conclusion of the war in Korea, North and South Korea were separated by a line, actually two lines, with
a demilitarized zone, a no mans land in between. It is generally understood that if either side were to cross
that line without the advance approval of the other, simply crossing the line would be an act of war.
In Job chapter 38 God asks,
Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt?
In history, scripture, literature and movies we live with this idea of drawing a line in the sand. That line
represents a point of decision, a barrier, or a trigger to war or some other action. And as we saw from the
passage in Job, that idea may be as old s humanity itself. But lines in the sand can be any kind of a limit. In
the mind of Thomas Paine, the line that was needed was a Constitution, and for the people of Israel, God gave
Moses a handful of rules that helped everyone understand when they had gone too far. (Exodus 20:1-17)

And God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or
in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous
God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who
misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the
seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or
daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For
in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the
seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.


Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.


You shall not murder.


You shall not commit adultery.


You shall not steal.


You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.


You shall not covet your neighbors house. You shall not covet your neighbors wife, or his male or female
servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Of all those in the list, I think that it is interesting, and most likely important, that two of those on this list
needed several verses to explain in detail what they meant. The first of these is You shall not make for
yourself an image. And the second is, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Most of us think that the making of images or idols is not an issue in the 21st century. At least in our part of the
world, virtually no one keeps an idol in the house or goes to a place of worship that has one. But since this was
one of two commandments important enough to explain in detail, I think we should note that the main point
was in saying that God is a jealous god. Our God will not accept second place to anyone, or anything. And
with that in mind, we read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, where Paul says

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the
power of God. 19 For it is written:
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not
God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did
not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews
and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of
God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of
God is stronger than human strength.
This is one of those passages that can make my head hurt trying to understand it, until you start to think in
terms of idol worship. Wisdom is always held up in scripture as good, as a creation of God, and even as one
who was present at the moment of creation. So why does this passage make wisdom sound like a bad thing
that God needs to destroy? That doesnt make any sense at all.
Unless someone has crossed the line.
The same thing is true of teachers and especially teachers of the law. Teachers are important and so are the
teachers of scripture. People need to learn, they need to hear the word of God, and they need to understand it,
so how can that bad?
Unless someone has crossed the line.
Philosophers are smart people and seekers of knowledge. They are only trying to understand the world,
humanity, and morality. Prophets and teachers and others followers of God can easily be said to be
philosophers, so what makes one kind good and another bad
Unless someone has crossed the line?

The Jews wanted to see signs and we know that signs are miracles of God, but miracles are good if they come
from God, so how can that be bad?
Unless someone has crossed the line.
But God said, You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.
What if someone loved the law so much, that they made the law into their god instead of God? What if
someone put teaching ahead of God? What if the pursuit of knowledge became more important than the
pursuit of God? In all of these things, our desire, our passion for something good, can cause us to cross the
line just as surely as our desire for human companionship can often cause us to do things that God has
commanded us not to do.
This is even more evident in John 2:13-22 where Jesus passion causes him to make a real mess in the Temple

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found
people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out
of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money
changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, Get these out of here! Stop turning
my Fathers house into a market! 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for your house will
consume me.

The Jews then responded to him, What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?


Jesus answered them, Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.


They replied, It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?
But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled
what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus loved God so much and loved Gods Temple so much that he got really angry that the priests and the
Temple leaders had transformed a house of prayer into a marketplace. More than likely, in the days before the
Passover, all (or most) of the outer court of the Temple was used to corral the animals that were to be sold for
the Passover sacrifice. But the outer court, which was known as the court of the Gentiles, was the only place in
the Temple where non-Jews could come to pray. The inner courts, even the court of the women, were off limits
to non-Jews and a punishment of death could result from Gentiles crossing that line. That meant that
foreigners, outsiders or anyone who was not a practicing Jew, had nowhere to go to worship God. And so even
though Jesus screamed and shouted, flipped over tables, scattered their sheep and generally kicked butt, he
never did anything wrong in the eyes of God. Jesus passion and anger were all the result of his love for God
and his obedience to the word and the will of God.
But the leaders of the Jews were a different story.
The Jewish leaders demanded to see Jesus perform miracles, but their demand wasnt to prove that Jesus could
perform them. There was ample evidence that he could and plenty of witnesses that could attest to what they
saw. Under Jewish law, two witnesses were all that was required as evidence, but for some of Jesus miracles,
there were easily hundreds of available witnesses. The only reason that these men demanded to see a miracle
is because their primary concern was not for the truth, but for their own pleasure, their own status and their
own ego.
They had crossed a line. They no longer worshipped God, but only themselves.
All of these things, wisdom, knowledge, teaching, philosophy, scripture, and even the church, are good things.
A passion for these things can also be good, but if that passion is only slightly misdirected, our passion can
lead us to cross the line into sin. This is why our enemy is so dangerous. Satan can pervert even the noblest of
intentions, not by dramatically warping them, but simply by, ever so slightly, misdirecting them. The Pharisees
loved the laws of God but they came to love the law so much, that the law became more important than the

God that wrote it. They dedicated themselves to following the law so much that they cared more about the law
than they did about their own parents or their own obedience to God.
And two thousand years later, we are not so very different. Just like the Pharisees, the Jewish leaders, the
Greeks and many others, we too have interests and passions and things that we love. And even though we do
not have idols made of brass or stone in our homes or in public places of worship, we too can fall into the same
trap. Sometimes our passions, even though they are good, are only slightly misdirected, and can lead us to
cross the line into sin. When we allow our jobs, hobbies, sports, recreation, or even our church or our family,
become more important than our mission, our God, and our obedience, then we have already begun to drift
across a line that we dont want to cross.
We must always be careful not to cross the line in the sand that God has drawn for us.
Its okay to love football, or basketball, or golf. Its okay to love science, or history, or any kind of knowledge.
Its okay to love your job or your family, or your favorite charity. Its okay to love the study of ethics,
philosophy or scripture and its okay to love your church.
But we must never allow anything, regardless of how good it might be, to become more important than our
love for, and obedience to, God.
We must draw a line in the sand and say, This far and no farther.

You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first
page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part
of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations
in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln
Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You
may subscribe to these messages, in print by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at These
messages can also be found online at John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the
New International Version unless otherwise noted.