Where Do We Draw the Line?

Where Do We Draw the Line?

I recently selected a *book for our book club that several people chose not to read because it contained occasional foul language. None of us endorse crude language, but while some decided swearing in books was unacceptable, others chose not to allow a few unpleasant words to hinder them from exploring the author’s thoughts on God, grace, and sinners.

This incident got me thinking about how and where we “draw our lines.” On what basis do we define our boundaries and determine what is acceptable vs. unacceptable? I suspect that if I met the author of the book in question, my first impression of this spiky-haired, tattooed, salty-tongued person would probably put us on different sides of my acceptable / unacceptable line—which would be a big mistake, because the author has a profound understanding and appreciation of God’s grace.

How often do I allow my own personal moral code to be an excuse to avoid dealing with people who are uncomfortably different from me? How often do I miss opportunities to witness God’s grace in action because I shrank back from the unpleasant realities of sinful living?

Being in the world but not of the world is no easy task, is it? Living a holy life would be so much easier if we could insulate ourselves from the mess and stink of this fallen world. But that is not our reality.

Nor should it be our goal. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors to this messy world, even when that means embracing people who make lifestyle choices well outside the lines we have drawn for ourselves.

How do we find the balance between pursuing a godly life and refusing to isolate ourselves from the ungodly language and actions of those who need our love?

Where do we draw the line? What’s your answer?


*The book was Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Personally I found her insights on grace to be challenging and inspiring.

About Lisa Betz

Lisa Betz writes from an empty nest perched on a wooded Pennsylvania hillside. When not volunteering at the church or library, she blogs about intentional living and writes historical mysteries.


  1. Lisa, you have asked such an important (and brave) question. I can’t answer it because every situation is as unique as all the different people who face them. But I will say that the line is different for everyone as we walk with the Lord and serve Him in a sinful world. Some can handle the abrasiveness, imperfections or seeming lack of reverence better than others. Or some people’s sensitivities are more resilient than others. But in all cases we should n ever expect that we’ll all agree! Therefore, showing love and understanding would be most important as we all navigate in a world that includes things that pull us out of our comfort zones.

  2. Forgot to also say thank you – great post and definitely prompts a lot of thoughtful consideration!

  3. I agree, Laurie, that we are each called to draw our own lines based on our own realities. We are not all called to love the same way, but we are all called to love. The challenge is discerning when we are holding firm to wise boundaries and when we are using preferences to avoid getting involved in someone’s messy life.

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