Cattle Drive, Fort Worth Stockyards, April 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Life in the Gray Zone

Recently, I saw a poll that pointed out where people are regarding moral issues in the US. I wasn't particularly surprised but it got me thinking that about where the root of the problem is and I think I might have stumbled onto something in my reflection. Let me know what you think.
   Our trouble is that we don't really believe in God. I'm not speaking about atheists, but Christians in general. We tend to believe in a great law giver, where everything is black or white, absolutely right or absolutely wrong. That's where our minds are, but our experience is more in the gray. This leads us to great difficulties with what we perceive as an absolutist position on anything, because we tend to experience everything in a haze… life is lived in the gray zone. And we make the gray even more hazy for ourselves because we bring our emotions into it and confuse things even more.
   You see, I think we believe in "right" and "wrong" in the same way we think of criminal law. I would suggest that we don't even have a grasp of criminal law anymore because we have lost what law is an outgrowth of in Christian lands.
   Let me explain. Right, truth, life, light, glory, etc. are personal attributes of God. We usually separate them from him in an abstracted way. They can't really be done that way though. To do right is always to choose to follow Christ as best we can in all circumstances. This requires us to recognize that the world is fallen and that sometimes we don't get to choose absolutes. We have to choose the best choice available and know that it is not perfect. But in doing so we still are choosing God. We are choosing him--although he is obscured from full view. We are trying to love him in all that we do.
   We also have to recognize that our fallenness keeps us from being able to see the truth with absolute clarity. So it is that we need to receive counsel from other Christians who are mature in their faith (not just Joe in the pew over from us, but from one who is spiritually advanced with the fruits of that showing forth). We need to seek to purify our minds and hearts so that we can see God more clearly. If we can't navigate our way through moral questions, then it may not be the issue that is the problem but our perception and understanding that needs enlightening. But repentance requires a complete trust in God. It requires faith because it is throwing oneself off a cliff into God's mercy. Repentance is to fly without the nets of our own comfort. God is a consuming fire... the fire of love.
   We also need to come to understand that all of the commandments that our Lord gives us (in the Old and New Testaments and through his Body the Church) are revelations of himself. God says, "Thou shalt not steal" because he has no avarice or kleptomania in himself. God says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" because he is faithful. He wants us to be like him in all things. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Laws are a revelation of the goodness of God and a revelation of what we are to become as well.
   If we truly loved God, we would constantly seek his face in all that we do. We would desire to move towards him at every moment and every decision. Life in the gray zone is our potential to love God or despise him without any coercion at all. We are free to move to the Kingdom of God or away from it. This is why it is gray and not so easily deciphered. It is also why it represents the most critical struggle of our lives. Honestly, very few of our decisions are good vs. evil (though the consequences always are). Mostly we have to decide between two alternative goods and choose which one is the real good. What will be our basis of choice? Will we decide this one looks good because I will enjoy it more, or will we choose the other because there are fewer obstacles placed between it and our love of God?
   In the gray zone we find out if we really believe in God or not. Most of the time, I think we believe in ourselves and our own comfort, or, being compassionate people, we choose to make others comfortable rather than point them towards holiness. But the more I consider it, the more I recognize that the gray zone is a luminous haze that reveals more than it lets on.

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