Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gray Areas

Romans 14:1-6
Has your unique perspective caused you to misinterpret
someone else's actions? If you saw them in a different light
or from a different angle would that poor choice suddenly
look wise or at least acceptable?
I used to think everything was black or white, if we only had the eyes to see and the wisdom to understand. I thought that everything had the capacity to bring us closer to God (white) or distance us from Him (black), so even minor decisions of what to wear or eat could be defined as good or bad from an objective viewpoint. While I still believe this in many ways, I've come to realize how subjective right and wrong can be also. God takes us as we are--with our individual strengths and weaknesses and histories and callings--and works on certain areas of our lives while ignoring others. Maybe He'll get around to the other areas eventually but maybe they simply aren't concerns for us individually.
I'm not talking about sins which clearly violate God's precepts--those we'd like God to ignore but instead are truly important in every Christian life (like clear violations of the 10 Commandments). I'm referring instead to those activities I don't feel free to participate in myself, yet there are Christians I admire a great deal who engage in them without inhibitions. Some areas I don't feel strongly about one way or another yet I know others do, and I appreciate when they don't make it as central to Christianity as, say, the 10 Commandments, and assume the best of me as I assume the best of them. These gray areas include things like:
  • celebrating Halloween
  • caffeine dependency
  • multiple vehicles per household
  • women wearing pants
  • Creationism in 6 days
  • Creationism via evolution
  • smoking
  • gambling
  • overeating
  • body piercing
  • swearing
  • mild/moderate drinking
  • dancing
  • eating vegetarian/organic/local/whathaveyou
  • boycott lists
  • listening to music with a distinctive beat
  • modesty standards
  • tattoos
  • public vs. private vs. homeschool
Arguments can be made for why each of these IS important, but take a moment to consider whether exceptions can be made. If a world-hardened individual becomes a Christian under my care, these are not the first areas I would address. As our hearts change and we turn away from our biggest sins, God often brings certain other areas to our attention. But they're not the same areas for each of us. Why? Maybe that cup of coffee each morning is soothing in a positive way for one person, yet is a means for someone else to avoid addressing more serious issues. Maybe that hypothetical second person is dependent on other things besides God and needs to let go of this dependency before working on another. Maybe one person who celebrates Halloween has always experienced it as being clean fun, dressing up as royalty and bobbing for apples and sharing candy. Another person who avoids it at all cost might have encountered Satan more personally and sees his influence far too clearly to celebrate Halloween as a Christian.
Sometimes it is appropriate to bring up a gray area with another Christian. But this is only after other, more significant areas have been addressed; only with someone you are in a close, usually mentoring or other accountable relationship with; only after prayerfully and fully considering whether this is an areas that is important or is ready to be dealt with by this particular individual. For instance, I think my husband and I have had conversations about each one of the items on this list. We've identified people we look up to who participate or avoid each one of these activities and we've discussed where we stand individually and as a couple. But I would not walk up to an acquaintance or casual friend and start criticizing her over any one of these, even those I personally feel very strongly about. I would be willing to explain my position if asked, but I would not take the initiative to bring it up and I would try to explain without going out of my way to cause conflict.
Before we attack other Christians, it is an act of love to consider first whether the issue is one of primary importance (then approach prayerfully and appropriately) or a matter individual to our relationship to God and His call on our lives. Remember that something they choose not to do might not apply to you. In the same manner, rules you follow, perhaps in choosing which dress is modest for that wedding you're attending, may not be the rules someone else is obeying. In fact, as you're criticizing the immodest spaghetti straps on her dress, maybe she's criticizing the short length of your dress! Assume the best, obey the instructions God has impressed upon your heart, be prepared for Him to continue to work in your life, and react in love when someone brings up an area they're not free to participate in, although you feel it's not an issue for your life.
Linked with Works for Me Wednesday

No comments:

Post a Comment