Thursday, November 08, 2007

What is Gray? What is Black? What is White? What is Light?

Hang with me for a bit ... I'm talking something out, but I'm opening it up for a peaceful, respectful, and Christ-like discussion at the end. Please don't think that I'm pointing a finger to any one person in particular, because I'm not. I'm just talking this out with you, instead of inside my head (because it's not as scary that way). And yes, it's another heavy-duty post. Sorry about that!

Last week, I posted on a pretty controversial issue, and it was difficult for me to hit the "Publish Post" button (and just to answer one person's question, yes, I did trick-or-treat -- until my family all became Christians, and then I stopped trick-or-treating when I understood the true meaning of the holiday).

You see, I am such a people pleaser. I want everyone to love, love, love me, and I want to love everyone in return. I hate arguments, I hate dissension, I hate disagreement. That's why I was so pleased to see very respectful and mature, well-thought-out comments.

But mostly, I hate having to deal with Gray Issues. I would much rather deal with a black issue, or a white issue as my friend Molly says. That way, it's clear. No questions. But sadly, that's not real life. That's probably why I get along so well with my sister-in-law, my friend Molly, and several other of my real-time friends -- because they are so much like me! People-pleasing-why-cant-it-be-black-or-white-and-cant-we-all-get-along people. Why, oh, why, oh why?

Speaking of which, I encourage you to go to Molly's place and read THIS post, because it is so right on!

Anyway, many people lovingly commented on that scary post of mine. Some agreed. Some didn't. And that's okay. I'm not trying to force anyone to believe the same way I do, as I acknowledge that we all have different levels of understanding and spiritual maturity, and I am far, far, FAR from being the sound and completely spiritually mature compass that all should follow! But it did bring to light many questions, and I wanted to toss a few things around and then open it up for discussion to see how YOU feel... without being judged by me, and without anyone else being judgmental, and without cruelty, please. We are all allowed to have and form our own opinions.

When I look back in scripture, I don't see that Christ was a people pleaser. I can't find where he lounged around in "gray areas." He didn't say, "come to me all you who thirst, and I will give you living waters ... if it's okay with you." He also didn't say, "go and sin no more ... if you can find it easy to do." Life would be so much easier if it were all black and white... "I came that you might have life, not death." There. Black and white. Easy, right? Jesus came. If we believe in him, we have life. If we don't, we have death. I can dig it. Love your neighbor as your self. Another black and white moment. Done. I get it. Clear as crystal.

Yes, Jesus ate with sinners, yes, he hung out with the lepers and the unclean. Yes, he hugged you even if your feet were dirty, your hair was greasy, and you were clothed like a beggar -- placing you far from perfection. Granted, he didn't stand outside of a sinner's home and holler in to them to come out and see the light for themselves, either. He walked right in and sat down at the table of the unrepentant without trying to convert them first, and showed them the true light. But he did not just eat with them, show them what a nice guy he was, and then leave ... Rather, he was very clear with them ... "repent - the kingdom of God is near."

And while he did sit down and eat with the sinners, or talk with the unclean, it leaves me questioning a few things: did he participate with pagan celebrations, services and ceremonies? Did he hang out at the local Roman temple and enjoy the fun highlights of their holidays? Did he go to the local gladiator's brawl to hang out with the decadent Romans looking for opportunities to witness? Did he go to the taverns (of those times, so to speak) looking for opportunities to teach his disciples how to avoid those temptations, and yet, how they can use those areas as places of outreach?

See what I mean? Gray areas. Lots of gray areas. Questions. Lots of questions.

Furthermore, Jesus was not always a gentle, quiet, calm man. He caused disturbances. He was constantly challenging the authority of the spiritual leaders of the day, and "bucking" old testament law. In fact, according to old testament law, when he ate with the "unclean" or the "sinners" -- it would make him unclean. But rather, we saw that Jesus flipped the old testament law, and instead of becoming unclean, he made the sinner clean.

I love that Jesus said, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." This made him unpopular with the authorities and religious leaders ... and this very statement makes my job as a Christian very clear. But, I can also see clearly that as Christians, we need to be very careful of what we seek, choose, and accept as light, or "okay." With so many choices and options in front of us, is it possible that sometimes we fail to see that many of them may sometimes be nothing more than Satan's misleading shadows?

Intellectually, I know that celebrating halloween in and of itself will not make a child evil. But I feel like I'm opening a door to my child's mind and heart towards making light of the pagan aspect of the celebrations, while showing him the example that it is acceptable to live of the world, rather than to live in the world. It starts with Halloween, but where does it end? In my small and slowly maturing mind, I am starting to realize that it's not about whether a child dresses up as an evil spirit, a monster, a witch, or an innocent bunny, Raggedy Ann, or Dora the Explorer. It's not about family fun in collecting halloween candy from other houses. Those are not things that will turn your child to all things evil.

Rather, it's about the acceptance of something rooted deeper than family celebrations, and yes, it may be true what one commenter said, that "Halloween didn't hurt ...[people]... the modern day Pharisees did," but I guess what I'm trying to work through is ... where do we as Christians draw the line to stand against things that the world finds acceptable? Is something like Halloween pleasing in God's eyes? Or is his heart saddened by how people choose to "celebrate" it? Wouldn't attending a fall harvest festival sponsored by a church be a better option as encouraging a family function than going door to door trick-or-treating for halloween?

By far ... know that I'm not saying that we should alienate ourselves from the world, but rather, we should be a light to this world. And yes, I feel that we should take every opportunity we can to witness to our friends and neighbors -- in fact, we have been given a direct mission as Christians to invite others to know, love and accept as well as emulate the life of Jesus. But sadly, we do live in a fallen world, where we are surrounded with values that are different than the values we find in the Bible, and Christian values we have been taught, and try to teach our kids. We have to live, work, and raise our children in a culture that is uncertain, at best, and rapidly deteriorating, and I honestly feel that it is critical that we maintain level-headedness and that we are careful of our surroundings if our mission in such an environment is to succeed.

Again, to me, it's not about not wearing scary costumes or not doing scary things. In my mind, it's a given that as a Christian, you would discourage your child from doing those things. To me, it almost feels like I'm not standing out as being any different as a Christian if I am partaking in the same thing the "fallen world" is partaking in. In other words, I'm not being a bright light to this world, but rather, blending in.

You know how I think this works? Sort of like sin ... very, very subtly. As Christians, obviously, we don't condone or accept sinful things like deceit, theft, pornography, etc. We don't set out to rob a bank, or become addicted to pornography, and while there are people out there that do, as Christians, we love the sinner, hate the sin. Right?

But, when we open our heart to a little tiny bit of sin by turning our heads and accepting something for what we want it to be, rather than the face value of what it really is (like adult movies and raunchy books), then it becomes easier and easier to accept other sin without realizing that we are doing it. Why? Because we have begun to neutralize our hearts and minds. Kind of like that little yellow container of Arm and Hammer baking soda does in my refrigerator. It neutralizes the odor, and I become immune to it, and instead of seeking out what is causing the odor and removing it from my refrigerator, I simply open the door, get out what I need, close the door, and go on with life. I'm not saying that celebrating Halloween is sinful. I'm simply comparing how our heart can become easily neutralized the more we accept something that might at first cause us to question it. Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit on our side, and it is the Spirit that prompts us through our conscience, and it is the Spirit's involvement that unifies all of our activities so that they lead, and here's the key... to the glory of God.

I don't consider myself a bold person. Nor, do I have all the right answers... I am just trying to do the best I can to raise my child to be as wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves in this fallen world without pulling a veil over his eyes and blindly living life in lala land, completely protected from everything around us, which I can also see as being a really easy thing for me to do. Godly balance is what I'm looking for.

Whew! Now, all I have to say is... and I'm sure this will open a whole new can of worms, but... thank goodness my husband is the spiritual head of our household, because my head really hurts right about now!

So, what are your thoughts? Take some time to digest it all. You can comment on the whole thing, or pick and choose. I'm curious to know how other Christians feel.


Anonymous said...

First of all I commend you on being brave enough to put this out there. I was the anonymous commentator discussing the modern day Pharissees.

Ultimately we all have to decide what is best for us and our walk with God. I have problems with sugar. I cannot eat it, or my blood sugar will go wild. I have to avoid it like the plague. That does not mean that everyone needs to avoid sugar. Just me. In a simplistic way, I think that may apply to many of the gray areas you are talking about.

Celebrating Halloween may not be good for your walk, drinking wine may hurt another, and for me, not walking in love hurts me every stinking time.

I still think gossip does more harm than Halloween. I think critizing other faiths that are different from us makes us look petty and ignorant. I also think as Christians, if we are constantly beating ourselves and others up, we are not going to be the best witnesses.

Good discussion.

ValleyGirl said...

Wouldn't life be so much simpler without the grey areas? I'm so with you on that one! But I think those grey areas exist for a specific reason. I think they are areas that help us define and follow our convictions, that give us the strength to voice our opinions. I think those grey areas exist to demonstrate that we are all different and that God moves us in different ways. I think the grey areas exist to show us that though we are not UNIFORM, we can still be united in Christ.

There's a little too much of this "doing what's right for me" ideology out there these days, even among evangelical Christians, but there simply are some areas where we have follow our convictions because there just isn't a black and white, yes or no, right or wrong answer in the Bible.

I think you handled this well.

Anonymous said...

There are certain things such as having wine (the bible does say a little wine is good), that are between you and God.

Halloween is not one of them. That if you read and study up the devil's highest holy day. So why celebrate it if you are a follower of Jesus? It is just fine for those who disagree, but you open the door for evil spirits into your life. I became a Christian late in life in my thirties so I too, celebrated the day. Once you know what is right then you don't do what you did before. Halloween celebrates death and Jesus came that we may have life. Why put more devils in your way to have to fight and overcome? I think we all have enough. I am no longer into arguing...if I tell a truth to someone and they don't listen, no problem.

God is such a great and awesome God!

It is not anyone person's job to make anyone believe something they don't want to. You can then say ok well I do not believe in astrology and signs (zodiac signs stuff) and there you go another arugment. Maybe if the focus is what does the bible say the written word and what is God saying to you personally. And giving folks a little slack because (in general) I think of before you remove the speck from your brothers eye, remove the 2 by 4 from your own. Mercy is better than judgement.

GiBee said...

Dear Anonymous number two: I'm having a tough time following your comment... I think you're saying that you don't believe in celebrating halloween, but that I am trying to argue my points out and trying to make others believe what I believe, and I'm judging those that think differently than I do ...

If that's NOT what you're saying, than forget the rest of this comment, and forgive me for miss understanding you.

If that IS what you're saying, then let me assure you that you couldn't be further from the truth. I very clearly stated that I'm not trying to force anyone to believe the same way I do. I'm not arguing, I'm just trying to understand and wrap my small brain around the whole picture, not a small part of it.

Part of my being a Christian is to be dilligent, study and show myself approved before God, not man -- so that I will not be ashamed when it comes to teaching the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Part of studying and learning is asking questions and gaining clarification. That's what I'm doing here.

I realize that I am not going to change people's minds, and that is not what I set out to do. Just because I write about what I feel the Bible says about a topic, what my personal beliefs are, what I understand to be truth, or what I feel God is saying to me personally, does not mean that I will change other's minds.

Rather, I feel that true knowledge and understanding of the Bible comes from diligent effort and God’s Spirit working in our hearts and minds -- not man. I am by FAR an expert in all things Biblical, and it sometimes helps me to openly discuss them with others.

I know there are people from all walks of life and different faiths that read this blog ... but as Valley Girl said, "though we are not UNIFORM, we can still be united in Christ."

I hope that sort of clarifies my position. If not, feel free to email me separately, and I would be more than happy to take the discussion off line!

Coralie said...

As the comments here have illustrated, the temptation in the Christian life is to color in the gray until it becomes either black or white to fit our own "color scheme."

There are some very clear instructions in scripture that can't be moved into the shades of gray category (To name just a few: adultery, fornication, drunkenness and gluttony are all bad. Singing in worship, gathering together as believers, exercising hospitality and loving one another are non-negotiable commands)

But what we as believers argue about (for the most part) aren't these clear commands in scripture, but these issues of conscience.

Romans 14 is especially appropriate when discussing Hallowe'en because it is specifically mentioning observations of pagan holidays. I think vs. 5 is the bottom line black and white on this discussion:
". . .Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind."

Therefore if you are convinced that Hallowe'en is a day set apart for the glorification of Satan, then it is a sin for you to observe it, and it is a sin for another to try to persuade you to observe it.

But if you are convinced that you can trick-or-treat to the glory of God, then you can do so without sinning, just don't try to force someone else to join you, or you'll be forcing them to enter into a sin against their conscience.

In this we've got to be so careful! We all assume that we are the "stronger brother" in these things. That is always a dangerous position to assume!

Anonymous 3 said...

I am curious as to how one can trick or treat to the glory of God? And I'm not being smarmy, it is a sincere question. If it a holiday that signifies satan's high day and all the customs can be traced to ungodly practices and meanings, I'm not sure I understand how to participate to the glory of God. To my mind that is like going into a pagan temple service and participating to the glory of God. I am truly asking this sincerly because I just cannot wrap my mind around how to do that. And how do we justify where scripture tells us to "come out from amongst them and be ye seperate?"

I, like Gibee, sincerely want to study and show myself approved.

Thank you Gibee, for being bold enough to continue this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Gibee, No I am not saying that you are trying to get others to believe what you believe. I am saying you said the truth (I totally agree with not celebrating halloween for any Christians). Currently I do not have a blog otherwise I would probably say something similar to what you said. Sometimes people have never heard what you are saying about halloween. There is some info that people who are open to hear some "truth" will accept and receive (and I am not saying in a negative way).

I was picking up some of the comments of others and commenting...sorry.

Anonymous said...

Gibee, No I am not saying that you are trying to get others to believe what you believe. I am saying you said the truth (I totally agree with not celebrating halloween for any Christians). Currently I do not have a blog otherwise I would probably say something similar to what you said. Sometimes people have never heard what you are saying about halloween. There is some info that people who are open to hear some "truth" will accept and receive (and I am not saying in a negative way).

I was picking up some of the comments of others and commenting...sorry.

Molly Coddled said...

Don't mean to jump in too late here, you know how much I agree with you on this, GiBee. The verse that speaks to Christians avoiding the appearances of evil comes to mind. And I also agree with the anonymous commenter who said they didn't understand how you could possibly trick or treat to the glory of God. I tend to think that Christians create more gray areas than there really are.

Susanne said...

I lean toward the black and white area with this subject as you know, Gibee. I think you have written it quite well and covered all the areas I would have. Could it be that we have so many gray areas as Christians (and I'm not just thinking of halloween) because we really don't want to stand out and be different because it is hard? It's something I need to ask myself alot. I don't like to rock the boat. It's not easy to take a stand against something that is so culturally popular.

Anonymous said...

I commend you for opening yourself, and asking the hard questions. It is my prayer that all who read this post, understand your questions and statements in the manner in which you intended. I agree with some of the other comments that there are some thing God can convict one person on and not another. To answer anonymous3 the kids around here are taught a saying about halloween. "We are all like pumpkins. God picks us out of the field, washes us off, and then comes inside and takes out all our yucky stuff (our sins) and then puts a new face on us. Then God lights his light inside us. It is our job to go out and let the light God put inside us to shine so that others might see it" My kids do Trick or treat, but while we are out we do a lot of reverse trick or treating. Take treats to an elderly shut in, take food to the new mom, and my kids know where they can and can't go. We live in an old neighborhood and the majority of our neighbors moved in when the houses were built. These neighbors love to see the kids out trick or treating. They look forward to it. This year I think we made to maybe 6 houses. My kids used it as a time to visit with the neighbors, show off their new skills, and the neighbors feel like they are doing something for us by giving them a piece of candy. I do understand that our decision is something very personal. I'm not sure I would let my kids go out in another neighborhood to trick or treat, knowing that it would just be for the candy. As one neighbor puts it, halloween is her favorite because that's when all her little sunshines(the kids in the neighborhood) come to her house together, instead of spreading out the visits. She dresses up and has her hair done just for them.

I hope this hasn't come across as judgmental, or as me trying to make you believe what I believe. This is strictly a family decision we made, and like I said earlier, If circumstances were different, I probably wouldn't let my kids go.

Anonymous said...

The more I study scripture, and the more I learn of Christ's commands to us, the more gray areas I notice. And the more I just have to trust what I believe God is saying to me and live my life with the basics of what I KNOW that I KNOW.

LvlyRita said...

Well-written. More from me if I wasn't trying to type one-handed, keeping Sam away from the keyboard.

krista said...

I agree. I think many Christians, these days, are just blending in. I agree with what you said about neutralizing things. We have never taken my son, (now 13), trick-or-treating...and I don't regret it or feel that he missed out on anything. I appreciate your boldness!