We are living in times much like the days of the Judges when everyone did that which is right in his own eyes. If any God-called preacher should touch on anyone’s particular habit, they are given to understand that the preacher is preaching nothing but “preference,” because “life just isn't black and white, with clear-cut choices and boundaries, and we just have to do the best we can to choose one of the ‘gray areas!’”
A “gray area” is defined as “an undefined situation or subject that does not seem to conform to known categories or rules (dictionary.com)."
“Gray areas” cover so many topics today, and it seems that there are more areas that are claimed to be gray than there were just a few years ago. There are “gray areas” in the realm of personal habits, like smoking or drinking. There “gray areas” in the realm of personal tastes, such as music, entertainment, and dress. There are “gray areas” in the realm of personal acceptance, such as our lifestyle, sexual orientation, or trans-status.
Why is it that there are so many “gray areas” today? Have our problems and circumstances so changed in the past 4-5 decades that the absolutes of the past no longer fit the problems of today? Have we come to such a place of enlightenment that the conclusions of the past can now be cast off for the confusion of the present?
Here is something else to consider: Did God not realize that there would be so many “gray areas?” Did He fail to include in His Word the answers we need for today? In other words, is the Bible really relevant to the problems of today, or does God not really care what we do?
The Brilliance of God
To fully understand the issue, we have to begin with God Himself. 1 John 1:5 says this: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” When we begin to study the character of God, we find that in God is no darkness. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. What is a “gray area,” but some place where there is a lack of light? If God is light, then there are no “gray areas” with Him! God is light because He is not a sinner. In fact, He is of purer eyes than to behold the wickedness of man. He is so pure that Paul tells us that no man can approach Him. 1 Timothy 6:16 says that God is “...dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto…"
Of course, the fact that man is incapable of approaching God because of the brilliance of His light makes the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ so essential! Without Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, we would have no hope to overcome our own enmity with God so that we might have real fellowship with God. We cannot thank God enough for sending Christ to die in our place.
We have to understand that there is no darkness in God. We also have to understand that there is no variableness with God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).” When we say that there is no variableness with God, we are saying that He is not fickle, or given to change His mind from one direction to another. This means that if God has set His mind that one thing is right or wrong, that decision does not change because men's minds have changed. The changes in our society and culture have no effect upon God. What was black and white 2,000 years ago is still black and white today, even if everyone around us tells us otherwise. When we say that there is no shadow of turning in God, we are saying that God has no shading which changes with the view of the onlooker. Having a close relationship with God does not mean that He allows us to get away with things that He would condemn in someone else. He is always the same, without one “gray area!”
It is clear that the character of God is brilliant, not allowing for any sort of “gray area.” But, God has not left the choices of our lives up to us to handle to the best of our ability. God has given to us His brilliant communication (His Word) to give illumination to every decision we face in life. From a young child in Sunday School, we are taught to recite Psalm 119:105, which states, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Just as God Himself is light, so the very words He has given to us are light, so that we might follow after Him in the light, and not walk in darkness! The only reason a particular situation or decision looks gray to us is that we have not properly illuminated that decision or situation with the light of God's Word!
God does not believe in “gray areas!” There is either light or darkness. God gave to us His Word so that we would not have to walk in darkness, but follow Him in the light!
The Blundering Choices of Man
Why then does everyone seem to talk about “gray areas” today? Very simply put, because man naturally chooses darkness, and has no desire for the light. Man can also be a hypocrite, and try to make you believe he is a very spiritual person by claiming his actions and choices of darkness are only “gray areas!” Jesus told Nicodemus that men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19), and refuse to come to the light of God's character and communication because they do not want the “gray areas” they have carved out for themselves to be exposed to be darkness (John 3:20)! No one chooses darkness by accident but makes that choice out of love for darkness. This is just as true for the believer as it is for the unbeliever.
But, what is the source or reasoning behind these so-called “gray areas?” I believe that there are three main sources that contribute to the claim of some attitude or action being a “gray area.”
First, there is the source of disarray. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33).” Mankind likes to confuse the issue, making it seem as if there is no “right” decision. This confusion is not from God, and should not be blamed on our Lord!
Second, there is the source of doubt. We know the account of Satan in the Garden of Eden. He twisted Eve around his little finger by casting doubt on the Word of God. Satan is not above opening the conversation with the Word of God, but he quickly makes the Word of God of no consequence to the decision to be made. The Bible in the hands of Satan merely becomes a pretext for spreading doubt.
Third, there is the source of distance from God. If we do not walk in the light with the Lord (1 John 1:6-7), we will be walking in darkness. We may try to call our lifestyle choices “gray areas,” but it is really nothing more than a sign that we are not walking as close to the Lord as we ought!
The Balance of the Light
When we tie all of these things together, we begin to understand that there is only light and darkness. There are NO “gray areas!” There have been some who call it a “cop out” when we state that there are no “gray areas,” but we do not have to explain ourselves to others. We must explain all our choices, actions, and attitudes to the very God that is light and has no variableness. That is a much greater concern to the believer who has a real heart for God.
When we realize that there are no “gray areas,” we must come to the understanding that anything which is not of the light must be of darkness. Paul asked, “what communion hath light with darkness (1 Corinthians 6:14)?” The two simply do not go together.
The only way by which to come up with a gray colour is to attempt to mix light and darkness. Yet, God clearly leads us to the conclusion that there can be no mixture of light and darkness.
It is clear that God expects His children to walk in the light, which means that we cannot entertain anything that would be considered “gray.” We must separate ourselves from anything that is not light, no matter what “shading” people might put upon that attitude or activity.
When we realize that there are no “gray areas,” we must also come to the understanding that when we follow the light, we will find the blessing of God! There will be the blessing of fellowship with God. When we walk in the light as our heavenly Father is in the light, we can enjoy fellowship with Him. To be able to freely fellowship with our Creator and Saviour is a wonderful blessing that we ought never take for granted!
There is also the blessing of fellowship with God's people. Many people cannot stand to be around God's people, but that is usually because they are not walking in the light, and they do not want their deeds to be exposed as darkness. But, when we walk in the light, we have the ability and the desire to walk with like-minded believers. Others may call us "legalistic" or "hypocritical," but we enjoy one another’s company because we have the same desire to walk in the light with the Father.
There is also the blessing of forgiveness from God. We cannot expect continual forgiveness from God while we willfully dabble in all the “gray areas” that are really nothing more than darkness. This smacks of rebellion rather than repentance, and the Father will not be moved to forgive that for which we have no remorse.
Not only that but where there is a lack of forgiveness in the life of a believer, there will be the need for the chastening of God. The chastening of God is really for the purpose of teaching His children to walk in the light, and not in darkness (Hebrews 12:10-11).
A simple reading of the Scripture makes it very clear that there are no such things as “gray areas.” In reality, the claim of a “gray area” is nothing more than an excuse to do that which we want to do.
But, how can we tell if an attitude or activity is of the light or of darkness? There are six points that will help in any decision about a “gray area.”
1. Recognize that the Bible has the answer! Psalm 119:105
2. Make sure that our affections and motivations are spiritual rather than carnal! Colossians 3:1-2
3. Ask ourselves whether or not our proposed attitude or activity would be acceptable to the Lord! Ephesians 5:10
4. Ask ourselves whether or not this attitude or activity would align us or associate us with those who walk in darkness. Ephesians 5:11
5. Ask ourselves whether or not this attitude or activity would hinder anyone’s salvation or spiritual growth. Romans 14:21
6. If there is any doubt, don't! Romans 14:23
We cannot afford to play with our relationship with God! We must allow God and His Word to set boundaries for our lives, even if everyone else in the world calls our boundaries a “gray area!”