Lately there has been lots of talk about the “grey” in the Bible. Conservative Christians are supposedly waking up from their stunted, abusive, check-your-intellect-at-the-door sham of a faith and realizing that the Bible on their shelves is a lot more grey than it is black and white. And, what a relief for them! It is so nice, they say, to put aside the oppressive teachings of the youth groups they once thought were awesome. It’s incredible to finally understand that the Bible is only a book, albeit a pretty good one, written by lots of flawed humans, handed down through all kinds of unenlightened cultures, compiled by who knows what kinds of means (by more flawed humans) and finally given to us as a laughably irrelevant guide to life. I mean, come on, what did Jesus know about gay marriage?
And, it’s wonderful, they say, to be able to distance themselves from the big, bad, mean church. It’s nice to be able to say to the world, Hey, world, you big ball of grey, blurry, undefined truth, I’m with you! I’m nothing like those so-called church people (*cough, Pharisees*). And they write their blogs and they tell and retell all that the church is that they hate. And they tell and retell all that everything else is that they love. There is no “right” way to interpret the Bible, they say. And they embrace the “grey” that lets them blend into the great lostness of this world.
The questions, they say, are more important than the answers. Who cares what the answers are, they ask, as long as you’re sincere? Even things the Bible seems to be clear on are not really clear when you take into account the cultural influences of the day in which they were written, and then of course there’s the whole angry misogynistic god issue, and in the end it’s really better to just quote the love chapter a lot and talk about how Jesus would do the exact opposite of whatever the church is doing.
And during all of this talk which is peppered with many references to themselves as great warriors of peace and love, there is an important element of the gospel which is noticeably absent: the truth.
And, there is no grey in the truth. It stands out clearly against the drab landscape of a world that is writhing in the agony of sin and strife. This truth is so crisply black and white that it glows plainly through the fog of confusion and “progressive” thinking and the lie that says that sin isn’t our real problem. This is the truth that calls humans sinful. It calls God holy. It shines a light on our desperate need for a Savior. And this truth challenges us in the most incomprehensible, yet beautiful way, to strive for holiness, even if it is unpopular (which it is), even if it makes us look like we’re trying too hard (which could never happen), even if it makes this whole grey world, even the grey Christians, hate us immensely for our stupidity, for our foolish devotion to an outdated book, for our crazy desire to live out the radical faith that it calls us to. And, most importantly, for our willingness to call sin what it is, a terrible offense against a Holy God, and a reason for great humility and repentance.
I have no doubt that the grey Christians are sincere in their desire to love the lost. But, the grey areas of their faith tell them that they cannot love while believing the tougher truths of the Bible. So, they call those truths fuzzy and call the church judgmental and they declare to the world that those who live in the black and white are ruining Christianity.
But, there is a better way. It is a delicate balance of truth and love, which Jesus so clearly demonstrates throughout His ministry. It is deep, crazy, genuine love that demands clear and honest truth-telling. Love and truth are excellent partners, and are necessary if we are to love God with all we have and love others with the kind of love that is completely different from anything the world offers. It is a black and white love, and a black and white truth, and when we drop the truth because of fear and discomfort, we drop the true love of the gospel message.
We are sinners who need God. No grey, no exceptions, no cultural nuances. That is truth. And that is love.
Leslie Ann Jones
Thank you so much for writing this, Melissa. I’ve been thinking so many of the same things over the past several weeks: that there is a difference between love and acceptance, and that sometimes the most loving thing to do is not to “be nice” but to be brutally honest. Because as much as the truth hurts, it is the only thing that can help.
Thanks for reading and for your comment, Leslie!
Thank you for this post. It is timely for me as a sponsor through World Vision and the very disappointing policy changes they’ve recently made.
Benandemilysmom, I know it will be no easy task to decide the best thing to do in your position! It’s a tough one. Thanks so much for your comment!
Agree with you 100%. The “piece meal” approach to the Bible will never work. It must be read as a whole book. Truth is truth. No denying it. Well, you can deny it but it won’t work out so well. Keep fighting the good fight!
This is true too, but since I started actually doing that I’ve become less hardline/black and white because when you take the bible as a whole narrative you can start to see that the journey we are all on with God is winding and yes, grey at times, but ultimately he is taking us always to a place of less judgement, more mercy, more listening, more self-awareness and more real love in action. Making already marginalised people feel so disgusting they kill themselves because you want to tell “the truth” is not the kind of loving action Jesus ever took. And maybe that is a hard truth.
So then people should be stoned for eating shrimp and bacon? Because the Old Testament is very clear on multiple occasions about its problems with shellfish and pork, much more clear than it is in the one verse that deals with homosexuality.
Also it calls for rebellious teenagers to be stoned, if all teenagers rebel should we then interpret the bible’s black and white truth to murder all our children?
Jon, thanks for your comment. The New Testament clearly lists homosexual sex in a group of many other things that I think you’ll agree are sins. ( 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) As for the Old Testament scriptures that you’re referring to, Jesus’ coming changed a lot of things. You might find this article helpful: https://theresurgence.com/2013/08/13/the-beginners-guide-to-interpreting-old-testament-law Thanks for reading!
So glad I found your blog! Thank you and may the Lord bless you as you continue to speak His truth in love.
Thank you, Tina! I’m so glad you found it, too!
Love everyone who needs God. Find me someone who doesn’t need God…when you can’t you’ll realize everyone needs loving. I agree, can’t be luke warm or grey in faith. ‘‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Rev 3:15-16
I do sort of agree with you but I note that criticism of religion was a pretty giant part of all that truth telling jesus and all the prophets were doing. And a lot of the time they were saying prrtty similar stuff to what you are talking about here. Taking care of the oppressed and those who are seen to be outcasts/sinners, and criticising the church for not doing so was generally the message.
Well said, Melissa!