April 2, 2014

Black + White = A whole lot of Gray

Black

This entire train of thought started when I put on a CD of nursery rhymes for Jocelyn. I was expecting a little “Ba Ba Black Sheep,” but instead was thrown into complete shock by the song “Goosey Goosey Gander.” (And don’t let the silly title fool you.)


Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.

Just in case you didn't catch that, let me say it again:

There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers, I TOOK HIM BY THE LEFT LEG AND THREW HIM DOWN THE STAIRS.”

Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.

Jocelyn was just as shocked as I was.

So of course, I immediately ran to Google. And sure enough, this “cute” little nursery rhyme has a history, based on a time when Protestants captured and executed Catholic priests, as well as anyone who harbored them in their homes.

Ugh.

Why is it that we (Christians) can't ever seem to get along? Why can't we handle issues between ourselves with any love, kindness, and civility? Why must the “holy catholic church” be smashed into 20,000 little pieces? (a.k.a. Denominations?)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.


Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye.

“Noah.”

World Vision.

Christian Education vs. Public.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

New issues every day. New fights, arguments, debates. New denominations.

And I find it ironic (shocking? completely fitting? awesome?) that not only did Christ choose to pray for us in the garden before our sins crucified Him, but also that His prayer was specifically for unity between His followers:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

White

But I am also afraid.

Afraid of how we (the church? the world?) are recently defining and redefining Christian morality and biblical principles.

Marriage.

Heaven and Hell.

Materialism and idolatry.

I am afraid that even though God’s heart must break over there being so many denominations and divisions in the church, that the issues we are trying to unite on are things that Scripture clearly teaches us as wrong. Issues I grew up believing as “black and white.” 

I am afraid that sometimes, in the name of “peace,” “unity,” “tolerance,” or not being “judgmental” we seem to think we must let all conviction go right out the door.

I am afraid that we think we are just getting smarter with each new interpretation of the Bible. Afraid that we are being exposed to false teachings by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Exposed to deception that looks beautiful and sounds good, but might actually bring destruction.

I am afraid we forget that even though our Savior spent much of His time hanging out with “sinners,” that once they made the decision to follow Him they were told, “go and sin no more.” I am afraid we forget that He also told us, “Be holy, because I am holy,” and that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.”


How can I avoid being a "mean old church lady,"
but still be careful and wise?

I know we are encouraged to “put a face” to this. That we need to remember we are talking about people, not just “issues” or “statistics.” But sometimes I am afraid that we might be rewriting and redefining Scripture just so that everyone we like will be “in.”

So do I have it all backwards then? Is it my old-fashioned upbringing? Am I just not keeping up with the times? Or are we really becoming as lukewarm as it seems?

A whole lot of Gray

I said (Black + White = A whole lot of Gray) for a reason. I do not have all the answers to these things I am afraid of, all the answers I wish I had. But I do have a lot of questions. Questions that I need to personally answer when these things challenge my heart, my mind, and my spirit.

1. Do I believe that sins are equal?

Do I believe that a person who lusts is just as guilty of sexual-immorality as a person who has sex outside of marriage (hetero or homosexual)?

That a person who hates is just as guilty of murder as a person who has an abortion?

Like my sister Madison said in her post about abortion: “You won’t accomplish anything without LOVE. Casting judgment on {people} because they sin differently than you is NOT OKAY.”

2. Am I being self-righteous? Am I forgetting about the plank in my own eye? Am I just picking and choosing what I think is holy?

In his article “World Vision and the Sad State of American Evangelism,” Brandon Robertson writes,

The harshest warning that Jesus ever gave was not to those who believed or stood for wrong things. No, rather, Jesus’ harshest warning was given to those who stood for all of the right beliefs but neglected the one sacrifice that God requires of humankind: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Isn't that the truth? If Jesus ever came close to hating anything, wasn't it the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, that “brood of vipers?”

And although I do not think the phrase “do not judge” means “do not decide if an action is ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’” I do think the phrase is our reminder (warning) that we have all “sinned and fallen short,” and that no man is more righteous on his own than another.

So what is “unholy” in my own life? The language I use? The media I watch and listen to? The way I treat people? The extra-curricular activities I partake in? My pride? My lack of compassion for widows and orphans? My apathy towards injustice?

Hmm...that's a great question, Mommy.

3. Do I (the church? Christians?) want to be known as someone who kicks too many people out or who lets too many in?

Is it better to err on the side of grace in hopes that more will hear the true Gospel and be saved? Do I want “all” and “every” to come to Christ? Because if that’s the case, if I am claiming to want to spread the gospel to everyone, then I should not have a checklist at the door to decide who is worthy enough to hear it.

And I should also always remember that people who do not believe in the Bible are not going to be living by its standards either. Once we are both Christ followers, only then can we walk the journey of “being a new creation” together, of being sanctified through our relationships with Christ.

4. What does the Bible say?

I know this may seem silly, but sometimes I forget to ask myself this question. Instead, I run to Google to find the latest articles and biblical interpretations. 

But it’s too easy to soak in articles and blogs without checking to see if Scripture actually backs up what is being said. I can’t forget to make myself sit down, read, and do a whole lot of praying for wisdom on whatever issue is at hand.

5. No matter what my convictions are, am I speaking the truth in love?

Anger, hatred, mean words, name calling, will not help, and will not further the Gospel. Kindness, love, gentle answers, encouragement, and a whole lot of prayer all go much farther.

- - - - -

I know that’s a lot of thoughts to come from one nursery rhyme. “Ba Ba Blacksheep” really would have been a much less complicated music choice. 

Yes. I'm still kind of confused.

But it’s never bad to remind myself of these things:

To tread carefully, to be on my guard against the Devil’s schemes, to test everything against Scripture. To avoid self-righteousness, to remember that I am a sinner just like everyone else, to above all else be Christ’s love to the world. To be holy, because God is holy. To hold onto my convictions yet do my best to preserve the unity of the church.

And of course, to stop “grabbing other people's left legs and throwing ‘em down the stairs.”

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

PS. I still am hashing out all of these thoughts in my mind. If you have any wisdom to kindly share, please do.