Lately I have been reflecting more and more on a principle that faces us every day. I mentioned it briefly at the end of the second Q&A and yesterday during the Sunday School hour. It is the reality that we live in a world of “shades of gray”.
It is true that the Bible gives the born-again believer, through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12-14, Acts 6:9-10), wisdom to cope with this world. Of course, this is taught from the pulpit and the Sunday School podium on a regular basis. However, hidden behind this absolute is a reality, evident in our sin cursed world, which is often understated and, at times, ignored.
As Christians, we are left with the impression that if we are mature enough in our beliefs we will be able to perfectly discern God’s will in all matters, and ‘know in our hearts’ the right course of action to take in every circumstance. We are told it is not only possible but expected that we humans can find, and remain in the center of God’s will, regardless of the trials and tribulations He may put us through. In that place, we will find peace and comfort, regardless of our decisions and their outcomes. Admitting we don’t have clear, Holy Spirit direction on a matter can make us feel we are immature in our connection with God.
Yesterday we voted as a body on an important matter of church governance. To unpack all the elements of that process and its outcome is far beyond the scope of this blog. I would, however, like to offer a central thought, using the vote as a real-life illustration.
The vote we all took yesterday was an example of being forced to make a ‘black and white’ decision in a world made up of “shades of gray”. Each of us, before an omniscient God, had to decide in his/her heart to either accept or reject Elders based on an overwhelming flow of data. For those who reviewed the Biblical evidence, there was little question that some form of Elder governance (vs. a Church Council) was supported by Scripture. However, were (1) the innuendos and reported past actions of the Elders too indefensible or, (2) the By-Laws too autocratic, such that God was calling us to make a major change?
Prayer… asking questions…. seeking God’s will…. weighing the pros and cons…. inspecting the evidence…. reading God’s Word…. sensing the Holy Spirit in each of our hearts…. trying desperately to separate our sin nature from, “what would Jesus do” were actions being taken by many, as Sunday morning approached. These are all good things, Scriptural things, that God calls us to do as we are to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves”.
Trying to filter through all the “shades of gray” while being forced to make a “black and white” decision that is honoring to God was, for many, not easy. This is the reality of life on this earth. It’s due to our sin nature, Satan’s influence and the interactions of one sinner with another. In the Garden of Eden (before the Fall) and in Heaven to come, the questions we grapple with on this earth don’t exist.
Perhaps I am being too simplistic but I think sometimes God is more concerned with the way we make decisions, more than the decisions we make. It is from that perspective that we all need to pray for soft hearts and a welcoming Spirit to all our brothers and sisters who desire to worship at Green Pines, regardless of how they voted. I would also say that we, as Elders, need to recognize that the “black and white” decision to maintain our existing church governance was, in fact, a “shades of gray” decision for many in the congregation who voted NO, much less to the 33% who voted YES. I know I speak for all the Elders when I say that we need to not only recognize, but respond kindly and quickly, to that reality.