Did you know that in the House of Commons there is a line in the carpet down each side of the chamber?
The lines are set, so I’m told, two sword lengths apart. MPs are forbidden from crossing them while debating so they can’t stab one another with their swords, should things get heated.
My mum finds this fact vastly amusing – and so very, very British. The idea that the leaders of our country might be willing to attack each other with swords, but not willing to step over a line on the carpet is, when you think about it, quite ridiculous.
Yet lines have power. They provide both constraints (remember those school handwriting exercises?) and freedom – it is the lines on a sheet of music that transform a scattering of dots into a soaring symphony. Crossing a line can get you a parking ticket or a gold medal. It can win you a rugby match or lose you a tennis tournament. Or it can bring hope to the world.
Last week, Kim Jong-un crossed a line, and in doing so raised the hopes of millions of people. He shook the hand of South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, then stepped across the low stone border and became the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea for 65 years.
Lines, whether arbitrary or reasonable, fought over by armies or erected subtly over the course of decades, drawn on maps, or buried in hearts, can keep us apart from one another. They can make us enemies, or perpetuate our enmity. Words can go a long way towards healing rifts and bringing peace, but most of the time true unity can only be achieved by crossing lines.
When we see pain and division around us, we need to be willing to cross the emotional, social and cultural lines that keep us apart from one another. This might mean meeting our neighbours and crossing the road into their lives. It might mean crossing the lines around our families and becoming a foster or adoptive parent. It might mean taking the gospel to people across national borders, or crossing the office to talk to the person who always eats lunch alone.
If Jesus could cross the line between heaven and earth to be reconciled with us, what lines might he be asking us to cross as we serve him?