When Black and White Appear Gray

When the Bible is silent on a particular choice you're wrestling with, do you find yourself frustrated, or do you secretly rejoice at the appearance of ambiguity? It may be that over time you've experienced both! In the former, you can't seem to find the definitive answers you're seeking. In the latter, you're glad that God has apparently left you as the final arbiter of right and wrong.

In either case, there is a substantive disconnect that prevents us from making choices that properly reflect the Gospel at work in our lives.

Many of us have seen the acrostic "B.I.B.L.E.: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." Sadly, this is an accurate description of our culture's predominant approach to God's written word. Given to us by God as special revelation of Himself, it's more popular to approach Scripture with the mind of a legalist. 

Instead of seeking to understand what He has done, we're too often in search of what we might do.

Can I drink?

Can I get a tattoo?

Can I get a divorce?

Can I...(fill in the blank)?

To be sure, the Bible does speak to our morality and ethics. But, God's approach to these things is not always as black and white as we'd like. Sometimes, God's will for us seems to be more like varying shades of gray, leaving us to wonder what His desires for us in a given situation might be.

Let me suggest that this apparent ambiguity is not reflective of a deficiency in the Bible, but in us. If God is indeed the omniscient and omnipotent Creator of the universe (and, He is), then His apparent silence on this issue, or that issue is no lack of forethought on His part, but is quite intentional.

You might recall Jesus' teaching about not judging "according to outward appearances" (John 7:24). There is a connection to be made here, between our dilemma, which ultimately finds its roots in our sinful hearts, and the purposes of God, which always have His glory in view. The lesson to be learned is that sometimes, if we're honest, our hearts are not motivated by the purposes of God, but our own.

Much to our dismay, our hearts can be so manipulative, that we would actually seek an answer to a given dilemma that outwardly fits into a biblical rubric, but underneath, in the secret place, fulfills an idolatrous pursuit.

The place for us to begin resolving our ethical dilemmas then, is not always, "Did God say...?" The reason this is so, is because, as we already know, there are issues we face in life on which there is no, "Thus sayeth the Lord" command. Even still, in His grace, He has given us biblical principles that provide the wisdom and discernment that we need in order to please Him, and guide our hearts in Christ-likeness.

Here are three biblical principles that might provide some relief when faced with those difficult decisions for which there is no clear biblical command, prescription, or prohibition:

1) A decision may reflect a heart that desires to honor God when it has been bathed in much prayer (Phil. 4:6-7).

2) A decision may reflect a heart that desires to honor God when our overwhelming burden is to please Him, and not ourselves (Prov. 3:5-6).

3) A decision may reflect a heart that desires to honor God when the decision is made and acted upon in faith (Rom. 14:23; Heb. 11:6).

What decisions are you struggling with today, into which God's word is actually speaking?