The idea of holding the line comes from military tactics. Basically, you wanted to prevent an enemy from breaking through or flanking you. If they were always in front of you, your shields (and your weapons) only had to face one direction. Once they got beside or behind your troops, you then had to fend off attacks from every angle. Not only that, but less protected assets were now vulnerable to attack. Throughout the history of warfare we’ve seen attempts to break the line or simply to bypass it. For instance, when Alexander the Great fought the Persians at Gaugamela, he came up with a brand new set of tactics to break the line and expose Darius, the Persian emperor. If you’ve watched Braveheart, the scene where the English cavalry charge into the Scottish spears is marked by Wallace screaming “Hold!” several times to set up the trap. Typically infantry would break and run, thereby allowing the cavalry to run them down. The French had the Maginot Line to try and prevent another situation where Germany was able to successfully invade France. Of course, it failed because Germany simply went around the line by driving through neutral Belgium. Holding the line is often key to success.
But holding the line means supporting the person right next to you. It means not budging. It means not giving in to your fear. It also means protecting the person beside you. For instance, if you were in the Greek hoplites, the shield you wore not only protected you but it also protected the person on your left. Therefore, the hoplite phalanxes were trained to move as one, to hold the line, to present a hedgehog type of formation where if you were the enemy all you saw were their spears pointed at you and their shields protecting them. Hoplite soldiers maintained this sort of discipline because they knew that the formation was effective. Let a gap form and the formation and the men who made it up could be doomed. So you had to consider how to not only take care of yourself, but also how to support your companions. One selfish person could render the phalanx weak.
This type of support and willingness to aid our companions is Biblical, too. We are reminded constantly of supporting our brothers, to strengthen them, to edify them, to help them when we can. Christ Himself offers to carry our burden while we carry His so we can retain some of our strength. After all, His burden is light, He tells us. In Proverbs we are reminded that three cords woven together are not easily broken through. This idea of mutual support is critical for a victorious life. Here’s what happens when it’s not there:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. – Genesis 3:6-7, ESV
When it counted, Adam wasn’t there to support his wife. The Hebrew gives us the impression he was right there all along, not wandering off in some other part of the Garden. He desired to be like God, too. And since she was willing to take the risk, he let her go first. This was one time when “ladies first” was most definitely not chivalrous. She ate, there seemed to be no ill effects, so he ate, too. She could have said, “Wait, I know this is wrong and I’m not sure why I’m okay, but let’s not press the issue.” She didn’t do that. Instead, she gave some to Adam. He ate and that’s when they learned what they had done. Only then did they support each other, by sewing fig leaves together. After they had fallen, after the battle was lost, when it was too late, they stood side-by-side. It wouldn’t last long.
Imagine how different things would have been if Adam would have stepped up and said, “No, serpent. I won’t let you trick my wife. God said not to eat from this tree and He must have had a good reason. Be gone!” Or imagine how different things would have been if Eve had said what I suggested. Would sin have entered into the world? Would it have spread its tentacles far and wide, especially into our own hearts? I don’t know. I can’t answer that. But I can answer the question, “Did they hold the line?” They did not. They failed to hold the line because they didn’t support each other. And thus, right here did sin enter the world and into the life of humanity.
Do you have a grudge against a Christian brother or sister? Until you do something about that grudge, you will not be able to hold the line with them because you won’t be able to support them fully. We face a vile Enemy and we need all our strength. Is there something not right in your relationship with another Christian brother or sister? What are you doing about it? If you don’t have an appropriate relationship, whether it’s strained or it’s too close, realize that you can’t support that person properly, in a godly and righteous way, and that person can’t support you. Also, if others are impacted by that relationship, none of you can support each other properly. When the Enemy attacks, and he will, you won’t be able to hold the line. You won’t be able to put that combined shield wall up with prickly spears to repel him. Rather, he’ll march right through and get to the soft, squishy insides, kind of like what you find when you break a sea urchin open. Seek reconciliation and restoration today. Find ways to support and strengthen and lift up your brothers and sisters in Christ. Not only does that help them, but ultimately, it helps you. Your defense is dependent on them, too.