When was the last time you drew a battleline? When was the last time you took a firm stand about something?
I remember distinctly drawing three battlelines. All have been with long-time friends who questioned the depth of my faith and impugned my relationship with God. My life philosophy is simple: agree to disagree respectfully. In each of these relationships, that did not happen. The first friend was blatant about how she felt – outright calling me a moron because of my beliefs. When I called her out on her obvious disrespect, she stopped speaking to me. She changed her email, moved out of state, and cut me off completely. The second one started a conversation on my Facebook page because she disagreed with something I posted. When I pointed out that the conversation could be viewed by all our friends and suggested we take it offline of the public Facebook arena, I became a judgmental, unevolved, and angry person. I repeatedly tried to talk to her about it, showing her what I actually said and assuring her I was not maligning her. I finally had to draw a battleline about her behavior and her accusations. I was proclaimed unworthy and hostile, and thus I was banished from her life. She changed her cell phone number, unfriended me, and moved. The third was with a friend who made comments in response to emails discussing devotional readings and Bible verses. Her commentary was that I was unable to read Scripture clearly or with rational interpretation. At one point I was told that I was “reaching” to find verses to prove my weak point. When I finally responded with my drawn line, I was positive but firm. And I finally had a positive result – we are still speaking. Now conversation is tenuous, but the door is open.
Looking back on all these events, I am sad. I am sad for the friendships that could not withstand some pressure. I am sad that there are once close friends who I haven’t spoken to in years by their choice. I am sad that people once important to me chose not to do life with me. I am sad that we could not find a way to stay friends – because it had to be all or nothing.
And then I start thinking about a recent episode where the line was drawn for me. I kept telling myself I was crazy at the beginning of this year, when I felt a battleline was drawn in a group setting after a disagreement. I told myself that surely I was imagining that teams were being formed and everyone would have to choose a side. This morning I found out I was not wrong. The situation was escalated to the point where people were asked to choose sides. Feelings were hurt when someone refused to declare one of us the “winner”.
I didn’t want the battleline. I didn’t want the battle. I just wanted a chance to speak and the respect of being heard. I wasn’t asking to be right, and I wasn’t trying to prove I was smarter. I just had something to say, and it was supposed to be a setting where everyone was free to speak and share. But there were boundaries, and the minute one person got uncomfortable, a battleline was drawn. It was made clear to me where it was, and it was made clear to me that the support of the group was not on my side of the battleline. So I chose, for my peace of heart and the peace of the group, to walk away. To give everyone time to breathe, to think, to consider.
And again I had a moment of sadness. Because the battleline was unnecessary. The battleline isolated. The battleline destroyed. The battleline glorified the enemy’s schemes. And we were all left wondering – why can’t we, as adults, get along?
Sometimes a battleline is necessary. More often than not, a conversation is the better option, and mutual respect is the best way.
The Bible shows us the power of battlelines. 1 Samuel 17 says Israel had a clear battleline – “Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokohand Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.” Two armies, each on their side of the battleline. Israel was too afraid to move because the enemy was big and intimidating. Instead of trusting God, they wallowed in fear and cowered behind the battleline, refusing to engage. Until young and fearless David came along. He threw off the borrowed armor of the army and charged the battleline with faith and a slingshot. His meager size was not an obstacle. The giant’s size was not a deterrent. The battleline was the place where God was going to show up and show out.
Jesus also drew a line. Not a battleline but a grace line. A woman caught in adultery is dragged before Him, probably half dressed, “as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him” and separating Him from the people’s affections (John 8:6). The religious leaders wanted Him to point an accusing finger at her or outright forgive her – so they could draw a battleline. But Jesus knows our every thought, every breath, and every heartbeat. He knew their scheme and refused to participate. So “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger” (John 8:6). Did He draw a line? Maybe. Did He make a point? Definitely. “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). He sent the adulterous woman on her way, redeemed, forgiven, and (hopefully) changed.
So what’s the lesson? There is always a line. It will sometimes be your choice to draw the line. You are always on one side of the line. And as you stand at the line, you always have a choice. What choice will you make today? Will you forgive? Or will you foster negativity? Will you heal and hug? Or will you hold onto the grudge? Will you love? Or will you linger in your pain and hurt?
God doesn’t draw a battleline with you. He draws a circle of grace to encompass you. Will you do the same for people today?
Marie Fremin. 7/17 and 7/23-24/16.