March 28, 2012

Absolutes in a world of gray

The expression “black and white” usually refers to a person or an opinion that sees everything as either right or wrong, with no shades of gray and no other interpretations. While this is considered “not useful” in reaching solutions, there are occasions that call for a distinct separation of two viewpoints. For instance, it is never right to abuse or torture a child. It is always wrong to steal what belongs to another.
In these days of “whatever is right for you might not be right for me” the idea of ethical absolutes has been tossed in favor of “each one doing what is right in his own eyes” as it was in the early days of the Old Testament (see Judges 17:6 and 21:25). As a result, our society is adrift in moral chaos. 

I tend to be a black and white person. While I see great room for opinions about art, music and other likes and dislikes, in my mind there is no place for gray when it comes to right and wrong. I also believe there is no place for personal decisions in those areas that are not black and white. The Holy Spirit might direct one person into some activity and forbid another, not because the activity is right or wrong, but that God sees and considers the needs, strengths and weaknesses of each person, and has eternal reasons for His direction. For instance, it might be okay for one to take up a hobby of making and flying model airplanes and not for another. The hobby is neutral, but God considers things like motives and possible ministry opportunities.

Besides that, from the very first verses in the Bible, God Himself is described as being black and white.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3–4)
Well-known preacher and writer, Charles Spurgeon says that no sooner did God create a good thing than He saw the necessity of a division. Light and darkness have no communion. For one thing, darkness is the absence of light and has no power over light. As John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” While he was speaking of Jesus, the principle is true regarding literal light. As soon as one candle is lit in a dark place, it is no longer dark. The two are separate by nature.

Spurgeon goes on to say that since God has divided light and darkness, we are not to confound the two when it comes to our actions and doctrines. The Bible calls us “children of the day” who must be “sober, honest, and bold in the Lord’s work, leaving all works of darkness to those who shall dwell in it forever” because they love being there.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19)
He tells His people to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers because there is no partnership between righteousness and lawlessness and no fellowship between light and darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14). God has separated the two groups literally, morally and spiritually. 

He also calls us to live in the light because He is light. We are to be like Him and live as Jesus did.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Because of Jesus, I can be black and white in both theology and in finding solutions to the problems of life. Since God is light and calls me to walk in the light He gives, then I know there are ways that are dark. Walking in them is not only disobedience, but also puts me in harm’s way. For that reason, and because God separates me from my former life of darkness, then I must also divide the light from darkness in my judgments and actions, in what I hear and teach, and even in my associations. I must discern between precious and vile, and maintain that great distinction which the Lord made upon the world’s first day.

Father, I understand this and embrace it. As Your child, I am to be like You. While You are patient and longsuffering with those who oppose You, You never add gray to the distinctions You make between wrong and right, sin and righteousness. I am either in the flesh or in the Spirit, walking my own way or obeying You. I cannot determine these things for others since this is Your responsibility. Besides, I often cannot see the Light in my own life and need Your continual guidance. Nevertheless, You call me to be black and white when hearing and doing Your will. You know that I am easily muddled. I am also totally rejoicing that You avoid shades of gray.

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