Do you remember black and white television? I grew up with it. To be honest, it was mostly the way most people these days pretend reality is: “shades of gray.” But to be clear, the groom wore a black tux and the bride was dressed in white, so in the midst of what was mostly shades of gray there were pieces that were clearly black and white. Anyone who denies it is not being honest.
The fact that it was a simpler time when good guys wore white hats and bad guys wore black hats does not excuse calling them shades of gray. You see, there was no confusing good and evil back then. There was no justification for the bad guy and saying he was really not so bad or just misunderstood or whatever. And there was no confusing the good guy and saying he really had secret flaws and faults which made him not so good as you think. And while you might call that a simplistic view of reality, you might also call it an idealistic view of reality. Think about it.
Shortly, we got a color television and the whole world changed. It was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz stepping out into a magical world for the first time. Reality, you might honestly say, ceased to be shades of gray. It became shades of green, blue and red. But even in this new expanded view of the world, the groom still wears black and the bride still wears white.
Calvin had the right idea when he said there were three parts of Christian Freedom. Christ set us free on the cross, but free is to be understood in three ways. The shorthand is this: We are free FROM sin, free FOR goodness and free to be indifferent about indifferent things. And let me start with the last.
No one cares, nor does it make any difference if the talking head on the television is wearing a red tie or a blue tie. If the Volkswagen is yellow and the Audi is metallic silver, who cares (other than the marketing department). The grass is green. Okay. We don’t want our yard to turn brown. But honestly, These things are indifferent. The world is full of indifferent. The only thing color television did was convert all those shades of gray to glorious (reality reflecting) colors.
Yet within those colors, black and white remain. The clouds are most often white in the daylight sky and black, being lightless in the night. Light and dark remain part of our universe – part of reality despite the relativistic fools around us. Anyone who insists that reality is ONLY shades of gray, I recommend you smile and tell them you got a color television a long time ago. Then walk away, because clearly that person is not dealing with a full deck, or at least not capable of seeing the truth apart from God.
Jesus Christ on the cross set us free from sin, and more. All Christians (presumably) know this, except most don’t recognize the more part. You see, the old expression was sin, death and the devil. That is a reference to those areas of life that are so dark no light may penetrate. When we were living in it, like the shades of gray people, we could not recognize it. Once we are set free from it, we see it clearly and pray we may be able to be kept out of it.
True, most of life is indifferent, and many of us could stand to better recognize when we are dealing with indifferent things. The people of faith have historically made mountains out of molehills. But there is some of life which is not indifferent at all and we need to pray that we may be saved out of it in our own person even if we cannot escape it in our situation or the circumstances the world forces upon us.
We live in a world with plenty of darkness. And even in Christ it is hard to get a clear look at ourselves in the mirror in a darkened room. But here, having recognized that there is indeed darkness in this colorful, otherwise indifferent world, we should recognize that there is also light, and thank God for that. If we are free to be indifferent and free FROM sin, we need to also see we are free FOR goodness.
We are instructed to let our light shine before men so they may see our good works and give glory to our father in heaven. Before the cross, none of us was able to break out of the darkness. None of us was able to truly do good. At least now we are able to see the light and we are able to try.
I will say this to the shades of gray people who are still stuck seeing the world in a black and white television way. Christians may well see black in something that is simply very, very dark gray. But no Christian is saying that anything in this human world is irredeemable. (If anything, the opposite: that the whole world might be saved through him). But then, we are not going to justify or rationalize even the dark, dark gray. We have been set free from the darkness and want no part of it in our lives.
At the same time, we might never achieve the light in our lives. You might see our light as still dirty, kind of yellowish perhaps and impure. But again, we are not going to deny the reality of pure light because of our imperfections or stop striving for it because we have been set free for this very reason: to reach for the light.
You may well think reality is nothing but shades of gray. You might want to put all the cowboys in gray hats, and might even call that “being realistic.” Don’t be surprised, though, if Christians remain indifferent to your form of realism.
Christians live in a colorful world, but recognize that black hats and white hats remain real. Christians have no intention of confusing those two no matter how much you insist we are being unrealistic, no matter how much you insist our views are simplistic, no matter whatever ridicule you come up with. We have been set free in Christ, Jesus and we understand you have not. You can’t see it. You are in the midst of it. You are blind to it and in need of some Amazing Grace. That’s okay. We will pray for you, too.