If you are like me, you have often heard the old sayings about how we should not think in black and white terms. In general I agree with this principle. After all, there are a lot of areas in life where a clear right or wrong answer does not exist. For example, if your work team is debating a strategy, there will often be more than one course of action you can take. Leaders need to be willing to listen to their teammates and be flexible. Ridged strategies often lead to failure, and people who will not flex on anything will find themselves facing harsh realities that could have been avoided.
That being said, there is often an overemphasis on avoiding black and white thinking in today’s postmodern world. We do not live in a world of pure gray. Black and white issues exist because right and wrong exist. There are principles on which we must never compromise.
For example, murder is always wrong. You might think, “Sure murder is wrong. Who would ever think it is right?” Yet even this principle is very quickly overlooked when it becomes convenient. My home country of the United States allows the murder of thousands of innocent children every year through abortion. Most Americans oppose this, yet they will not speak out against it. It has not even been a major issue in a U.S. election for years.
Ok, so maybe we can agree on murder. What about lying? We can all agree lying is wrong right? Yet most of us, me included, have justified a lie for one reason or another. Most often it happens because the lie gets us out of some sticky situation. We move from white to black because it is convenient. Lies are not a gray area.
What about gossip? Most people would say gossip is wrong. But then they share concerns that Bob may be falling back into his alcohol addiction with someone who is not Bob. Or they may present a prayer request to their friend for their sister-in-law who is in denial about her child’s learning disability. All of a sudden gossip becomes ok if the alleged motives are good. Gossip, even with good motives, destroys trust and kills relationships.
Perhaps at this point one might offer a counter argument by pointing to Jesus who seemed to be in almost continual conflict with the religious leaders of His time over the issue of observing the Sabbath. One might argue that the Sabbath was instituted by God yet Jesus seemed to be ok with bending the rules on this. If He could bend the rules, why can’t we?
My answer to this is to take a closer look at exactly what Jesus was speaking against. He spoke against human rules and traditions made up to help preserve the Sabbath. These rules and traditions were not commands of God. When it comes to commandments of God, Jesus wants obedience. In fact obedience to Jesus’ commandments is how we show we love Him (John 14:21).
Please note here, I am not saying that obedience to God is necessary for salvation. Salvation is a gift from God that comes through Jesus’ death and resurrection. In fact, if you are trying to earn your salvation, you have nothing to do with Jesus and have fallen away from His grace (Galatians 5:4).
However, though obedience to God is not necessary for salvation, it is none the less necessary. In fact, obedience is even more important than worship. This is a lesson that King Saul learned the hard way, and it cost him his crown (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
To sum up, on any man made rules or principles, black and white thinking can be a handicap. However, when it comes to God’s commands gray thinking is the road to disaster.
“Compromise is a battle ground.” -PFR