Shades of Gray

I fail to understand black and white religion. No, I don't believe that each of us should create his or her own religion. I don't believe that I can be master of the universe and successfully live entirely by rules of my own choosing or by determining what is right or wrong according to what feels right. But rigid rights and wrongs don't seem to fit either.

Take "killing".. Even our own Seventh-day Adventist church fails to discover a black and white doctrine regarding participation in war. While our church recommends a non-combatant role within the military when required by one's government, our church also accepts the more extreme pacifist choice of non-military service in lieu of regular military duty and even the choice to train and use a gun in the military. This seems to be a gray area regarding what is known to be sin and what is not.

Jesus supported the relieving of suffering and pain on the Sabbath so Seventh-day Adventists don't object when members work in hospitals caring for the sick on the Sabbath. Yet several years ago I read where the church supported a prison cook in his refusal to work on the Sabbath. Did Jesus say somewhere, sometime that prisoners should be doubly punished on the Sabbath by being refused food? Did he say that it is appropriate to cook for and serve Adventist academy students on Sabbath but not prisoners? (Of course, I don't know all the circumstances regarding this case.)

It's fine to help the sick in the hospital on the Sabbath and it's maybe OK to stand duty as a fireman or police officer on the Sabbath but it's usually thought to be sinful to work providing electrical power, or natural gas, or phone service on the Sabbath. How many members choose to put aside personal mail until after the Sabbath? Various shades of gray, aren't there?

So far our church remains neutral regarding abortion although it appears to me that most members express black and white anti-abortion positions. Some may grudgingly accept abortion in cases of rape or physical health of the mother and this blurs into grays. But I fail to see plans in place to financially and socially assist single mothers raise unexpected children during difficult times. Christian fundamentalists outside the Seventh-day Adventist church seem to be ready to adopt institutional care for the otherwise unwanted children but that seems to be the extent of reaching out to those who search amongst the gray decisions they face in this situation.

I'm not saying that the decisions of the church clearly identify the presence or absence of sin. Choices are our own. We answer to God, not to our church although we may be disfellowshipped by our church when we choose a "lighter shade of gray" then our leadership or fellow members would have us choose.

I am saying that we should not diminish a friend in a dilemma when he or she feels overwhelmed deciding what is right or wrong. When we ourselves do not directly face making these decisions we should not impose simple black on white viewpoints. Perhaps in reality there is a continuum where a line exists somewhere but is not clearly delineated. The safe black or white decision would mean practicing the Sabbath according the pharisee and leaving the injured to suffer until after the Sabbath. Or in today's wealth of technology, delaying life saving emergency help because the phone line is down and the emergency crew is in church until after Sabbath. I don't think that God wishes for us to practice timid, safety conscious Christianity!