Shades of gray: How my black and white worldview turned upsidedown.

It all started in systematic theology class. A well known and much revered professor Dr. Ray Anderson, asked his students this question:

Suppose you are the pastor of a church.  And suppose that a homosexual couple starts attending your church. They have a small child together.  Over time, they decide to follow Christ and commit their lives to live according to God’s Word.  What do you advise them to do about their homosexual relationship?  Should they separate? If so, what happens to the child?

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I did not have the answer then.  I do not have the answer now.  I don’t expect to have the answer in this life.  It’s far too complicated for me.  Thus began the questioning of the Christian faith I had grown up to know all my life. You would think that seminary, of all places, would be the place where my faith would become more solid; where I would form that golden nugget of answers to questions about faith in Christ.  No.  I graduated from seminary with more questions than answers, more doubt than certainty.

I grew up in a black and white world.  Wrong and right were easy for me.  A rule-follower by nature, I found my way comfortably in the evangelical church.  Even after experiencing some difficulties for which I had no black and white explanation, I still found myself in the world of right vs. wrong.  The Bible says, therefore ________ .

That is, until that question was asked of our class and I had to take a long hard look at the black and white world I lived in.  I was uncomfortable with the shades of gray this question implied.  “Don’t be lukewarm or I’ll spit you out of my mouth,” were the words I would hear in my head.  Gray = Lukewarm. Right? The Bible is absolutely, certainly clear on every matter of life and faith. Right?

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And so the questions started.  And they have kept on coming, more fierce with every year to the point that I wonder when someone will finally call me a heretic for even entertaining some of the thoughts I have.  For example:

When Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”what “Scripture” did he mean?  I’ve heard that verse used hundreds of times to reinforce that the Bible has every answer to every question, but the Bible as we know it today didn’t exist when Paul was writing a letter to Timothy.  So… what was the “Scripture” that Paul was referring to?  And why on earth do so many Christians use that scripture to support everything in the Bible as an absolute?

Or this:  Why are Christians so afraid of the “human element” in the Bible?  I mean, Paul wrote letters to churches regarding junk they were dealing with.  Are we supposed to take literally everything he said or was he maybe harsh or unkind or a little, dare I say off track at times?  (Cover your heads ladies and by all means do not speak up in church!)

How about this: Why do we have so many denominations, yet one Christ that we follow?  Why do we feel the need to separate ourselves by doctrines and theologies that divide instead of unite?  Oh, the human nature that wants to be right at all costs.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment (and all the law and the prophets could be summed up as such) was this:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  And the second (greatest) is like it – Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Which leads me to more questions:

What about a loving, monogamous, homosexual relationship is not “loving God” or “loving your neighbor?”  It gets a little scary in my brain sometimes, because these kinds of questions will not leave me alone.

I could go on, and perhaps I need to just do a series of posts on my questions and the answers (or non-answers as it may be) that I have come to understand.  But I wonder if you don’t have the same questions I do!  I am staring at the rigid, judgmental person I so often am while simultaneously judging those who judge others. What’s wrong with that picture!? I lose my way sometimes, and then have to go back to the basics again: “Love God. Love Others.”

Two things I have come to know for certain in all my questioning:

1) I would rather err on the side of love than to err on the side of law.

I am not called to point out other people’s sin, nor do I believe I will ultimately be held accountable for their choices or actions.  Jesus asked me to love and that is what I intend to do.  I believe it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to work on their choices and actions and the consequences that result.  As Brennan Manning writes in The Ragamuffin Gospel, “… ‘the conversion by concussion’ method, with one sledgehammer blow of the Bible after another, betrays a basic disrespect for the dignity of the other and is utterly alien to the gospel imperative to bear witness.  To evangelize a person is to say to him or her, You, too, are loved by God in the Lord Jesus.”

2) I am comfortable not knowing the answers to all things Christian.

I do not have to choose between “pre-trib and post-trib.” I do not have to decipher all of the prophetic signs that point toward the end of time as we know it.  I can leave room for God to invite people into heaven that wouldn’t get in based on human standards (my standards?).  I can trust that he knows the answers and I don’t have to.

What questions do you ask?  What tugs at your heart, but is afraid to bravely come out and ask? Are you afraid of the shades of gray? Don’t be! God loves you where you are and welcomes your questions.  Heretic?  Nah… just a traveler along the journey to his heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments on “Shades of gray: How my black and white worldview turned upsidedown.

  1. Excellent point, and annoying . Thank you for ruffling theological feathers. I have really wrestled with the issue of “loving sinners” in Jesus (Yehoshua) name. My younger brother Jeffrey was gay, and came out in the late 80s. He has since gone to be with the LORD many years now. One of my college roommates was a “loud and proud” gay. He and I remained friends until his death from AIDS a few years ago. With both I have had many deep conversations about the gay lifestyle and how Christianity played a role in their lives. My heart breaks for those whose sexual identity is different from what the scriptures teach.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Jim. Yes, when homosexuality comes close, it’s hard to ignore the questions. We are plunged into the reality of dealing with our views on sin, what Jesus’ response would be and what our response should be. I’m thankful for people like you who don’t alienate relationships because of something we can’t understand.

  2. Hi Kari, I can appreciate your questions. Personally, I believe we are intended to live with questions. That is exactly what stretches us beyond our limited grasp. I have felt we might find ways to answer our questions and when we do and if we are open, new questions will emerge. It is the nature of growth. We have to keep growing as long as we are alive or our brain just shuts down happy with the old and familiar.

    So living with questions is a healthy pursuit. Thanks be to God for the questions he gives us to carry and thanks be to God for the moments we feel we have received more insight into any one of those questions inside.

    After our years of working in therapy I can honestly say God does have a way of revealing himself to us and to our questions. He sometimes actually works through us and sometimes He goes way out around us. I am more than content with questions even though they put me into an ambiguous state. They are more my choice than empty platitudes and meaningless “ho hum” answers. I am happy with ambiguity and realize it is my friend.

  3. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to see/read anything of yours. You are a very eloquent writer! Thanks for confirming that I don’t have to have all the answers or know all things Christian! I am always nervous about what I will say when that question I don’t know the answer to arises.
    Aren’t we fortunate that we don’t have to make decisions about how others live their lives? We can love them for who they are because that is what God wants us to do! It is so easy to stand in judgment of others. I often think about how hurt I would be if I knew what others said about me behind my back. I try to love others and accept them as they are. I often fail, the devil is so convincing! I have to remind myself that my ‘job’ is to allow God’s love to show through my actions. God is so good!

    • Hi Mary Lyn 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts. It’s taken me a long time to become comfortable with not having the answers. I’m thankful for a God who gives us grace enough to not know it all. Imagine how overwhelming that would be! Hope you are well 🙂

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