President Obama drew a red line for the Syrian regime. Use lethal gas against your own people, he told them, and you will have crossed the line for which you will face dire consequences. Now that there is evidence that gas has been used in Syria, the president is right to be cautious about using the power of the United States to teach Syria a lesson.
Certainly the Commander in Chief knows how to inflict great damage on Syria through military power. But my prayer for him is that as a Christian he will be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love, the love of Christ, that surpasses knowledge.
I’ve been pondering a story of Jesus. Some “senators” brought a woman to him who had been caught in the act of adultery. They reminded Jesus that Moses had laid down a line against adultery, requiring an adulterous woman to be stoned. What do you say? they demanded. They knew that Jesus was prone to forgive and they wanted to catch him in the act, discredit, and disgrace him.
According to the story, Jesus said, Let him who is without sin, who has not lusted for a woman cast the first stone. Then he stooped and wrote on the ground with his finger. What he wrote is left to our speculation. Perhaps he wrote all ten of the commandments. Perhaps it was a list of sins that he wrote. Or he may have doodled, or drawn a line.
As he scribbled the men began to leave, with the eldest leaving first. I like that! The Old Fool knows how it is to live long with many opportunities to fall short, to cross the line. I like the old man who stopped being an accuser, and led the way for all the other men to follow him. I wish I knew his name, could embrace him and let his tear-damped cheek touch my own. For he is my brother.
When Jesus looked up he saw that he was left alone with the woman of shame. “Does no man condemn you?” he asked. “No one.” she answered. Tenderly, but firmly he said to her, “Go, and sin no more.”
I’ve heard men preach on this gospel story and imply that Jesus was saying “if you ever cross this line again, I will send you to the hell you deserve.” Such preachers forget that Jesus was the teacher who taught Peter to forgive, not merely seven times, but seven times seven. Instead he was offering her the ability to be a person, not a thing, and the strength to say “no, not now, not this time, not ever.” Yet if she yields, Jesus will forgive her again, again, and again.
Now back to Obama and the red line in Syria. How often has the United States crossed a line drawn by Arab, Muslim, and other states and proceeded to maim and kill? It is time for someone to challenge the nation who never bombed to bomb first. The time is here for all who would punish other nations for their crimes to pack their bags, and go home.