Summary: Love and sacrifice should be the guiding principles when we deal with ethical questions that abide in the gray areas of life.
Living in Shades of Gray
I like black and white. No, not the racial thing, but questions that have yes or no answers, those questions that are either right or wrong. It makes life simpler, and Lord knows, I could use a simpler life. The Bible is really good at that in some respects, like with adultery. The Bible doesn’t leave much room with adultery. Adultery is sin. You know, one of the big ten and all, and we could go on down the list: murder, covetousness, stealing. The Bible is pretty clear on things that are right, too. Things like honoring God, honoring our parents, honoring the Sabbath.
It would be very nice if life were that simple, but you and I both know that we are faced every day with situations and circumstances that are not always so black and white. A man who had been a Christian for several years told a pastor that his favorite form of relaxation was smoking pot.
The pastor said, “Do you see a contradiction between Scripture and smoking marijuana?”
The man said, “No. In fact, Scripture allows it.”
The pastor replied, “How do you see that?”
The man said, “Genesis 1:29. God says, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”
Now the pastor had him: “It says ‘for food’. You smoke marijuana; you don’t eat it.”
“You haven’t tasted my brownies,” came the man’s reply.
We live an inordinate amount of time, not in realms of black and white, but in a land painted with varying shades of gray, and it causes us no small amount of confusion when we wrestle with all the questions that seem to draw their life in those shades of gray.
What are some of those gray areas I mean? Let’s take movies as an example. Some people struggle with whether or not they should go to the movies, or if they can, what kind of movies should they go see. Alcohol is another one of those gray areas Christians disagree upon. Why, would you believe some churches even serve real wine at communion? And, there are other Christians who think those Christians who drink alcohol are not Christians at all. In certain circles, if you are a woman who wears make-up, enjoys playing cards, and goes dancing every Friday night, you might even be the incarnation of evil itself.
Pastors get questions every holiday that rolls around concerning whether Christian should celebrate. From Easter to Halloween to Christmas the questions abound. Should we have Santa Claus? Should we put up a Christmas tree? Does the Easter bunny make an appearance at our church? Do we even let the children hunt Easter eggs? About the only holiday most of us agree on is Thanksgiving, and even that one has become so totally secular. It’s about football and feasting, not giving thanks.
Then, of course, there is the question of culottes. You know? Is it all right for women to wear pants, or for men to have long hair? And just to think, we haven’t even mentioned the issue of tobacco. This is, after all, Louisiana, and how could we talk about gray areas without mentioning gambling and the casinos? The questions are endless.
Quite honestly, the Bible seems to be very silent on these and a lot of other issues we face today. We are left with our own consciences to guide us, and we wonder who’s right?
The Apostle Paul had to deal with the same type of problem all the way back in the first century. I suppose there is some consolation in knowing human nature has not changed in over 2,000 years. In a little church in the city of Corinth, Paul was confronted with a question grown in the gray areas of life. The church there asked him about eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Most of the meat that was sold in the town market came from sacrificial animals that had been slaughtered at the ceremonies in the local temples of any number of pagan deities. Part of the meat of each sacrificial animal was burned on the temple altar, part was eaten in temple ceremonies, and part was sold in the Corinthian marketplace for consumption at home. The question at hand was this: “Did these rituals somehow automatically taint the food with some weird spiritual voodoo? Could Christians eat meat that had been offered to idols?”
Some Corinthian Christians embraced the idea of liberty they obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul founded this church and he undoubtedly shared with them the same philosophy he taught the church he established at Galatia: “For freedom Christ has set us free;” (Galatians 5:1).