It’s not always black and white

We want to put people into boxes. We become offended or turned off by something they say or do and label them.  We want it to be simple; he’s good and she’s bad, she’s got a really good heart and well, he’s just plain selfish.  But the thing is, life just doesn’t work that way. No one person’s deeds are  all good nor all bad. And yet we are quick to judge, quick to suspect their motives. And once we’ve put someone or a group of people in that “not so good” or not trustworthy or “less spiritual” category we are tempted to see all they do through that lens. Even the good they do is questionable.


It’s sad that we do this. We do it with ourselves too. We want our motives and actions to be pure and loving. We examine them and label them. We describe what we do as being “in the spirit” or “in the flesh.” And while there is merit in examining our motives and and it’s important to examine our consciences there is a danger in seeing things in black and white.


You see we are made of flesh and spirit. Seldom are the motives behind what we do entirely pure. This is why we need grace. We can do wonderful things in the name and love of Jesus and even those deeds can be tainted by self-love. But God’s grace takes those deeds of love offered by faith and redeems them and us. This is the glory and wonder of living in God’s system of grace instead of the system of the law. No longer must our deeds be perfect in order to be accepted by God. Instead, our deeds, born of the spirit and tainted by our flesh, are accepted by Father and bring glory to him despite their imperfections. This by no means gives us permission to cease striving for perfect love. “What shall we say then, shall we continue to sin so that grace may abound. Certainly not…” (Romans 6:1). No, instead this system of grace should motivate us all the more to love like Jesus and extend this same grace to others.


We desperately need to see others through this same lens of grace. Our brothers and sisters in Christ will not always have the same agenda as we do. Our family members will not love us perfectly. Ministry and political leaders will not lead perfectly. Like you and me they are made of flesh and spirit. Even their best attempts to love “in the spirit” will probably be tainted by their own self-interest and self-love. They too are in the process of learning how to love.  


We can’t write off individuals or groups of people simply because we encounter that self-interest and self-love. We can’t declare their efforts to lead, to follow, to love and befriend or to work for the Kingdom of God as null and void simply because we come in contact with their flesh. No, instead we are called to live in a system of grace.  We are called to receive one another and our deeds in a spirit of love; we are called to see the image and love of Jesus in one another offering unmerited favor to each other despite our imperfect attempts to live in unity, love, holiness and peace.


What individuals or groups of people have you written off lately? 

How is God calling you to extend grace so you can walk in unity and peace?


4 Responses to It’s not always black and white

  1. searcherofthepath says:

    I agree with you, but find I struggle with this daily. Your timing could not be more appropriate in light of the election. In your other post you indicate your candidate lost. How do you feel about the selection of our country’s new leader?

  2. Amy says:

    It’s a struggle on a personal level as well as a political level. Looking for and acknowledging the good intentions of another person’s heart is not easy to do when they or their actions stand in opposition to our wants or needs. It’s so easy to “write people off” when they fail us in some way or to label them and move on instead of standing in the midst of the mess and extending grace and working through differences, conflict and wounds.

    On a political level, it seems popular among some to “demonize” political opponents with our rhetoric. It is easy to do. I feel passionately about the abortion issue and my heart is especially burdened by the election of a man who has openly stated he will repeal laws currently in place which restrict partial-birth abortions. I could not support him as a candidate and I’m sad that he will be our next president. However, the Holy Spirit reminds me that he is a human being created in the image of God. He has a soul and a spirit and only God knows the depths and intentions of his heart. I can only hope and pray that God will guide him and convict his heart about the dignity and value of all human life. I pray this as well for my neighbors and friends who are pro-choice.

    I think the challenge many pro-life supporters face is fighting for the respect of all human life while respecting the human dignity of those who oppose us. We can never further the Kingdom of God and the message that Jesus came to bring us “life” by life denigrating and showing disrespect toward those who don’t believe.

    Actually this is true for all divisions. I wish more Christians would show respect for one another in the midst of the divisions that exist. As someone who has crossed the divide from the Protestant side to the Catholic side I can honestly say I just wish we’d all extend a little more grace.

    Ok, you got more than you asked for in my response. But those are my thoughts.

  3. searcherofthepath says:

    I agree; there is truly not enough grace in this world. I think some people feel that respect leads to tolerance, which then leads to acceptance. The line between these can often be blurred. I guess the real question is where is the line drawn?

  4. Amy says:

    Dear Searcher-
    You hit the nail on the head. Where to draw the line and how is not always so clear. We always hear about “loving the sinner but hating the sin.” The question then becomes what does “love” look like? What is the most loving thing to do when dealing with the immoral or sinful behavior of others? How do we “lovingly” stand up for truth in our personal and public lives? The only thing I know to do is to constantly pray “Come Holy Spirit, come, and lead me in the wisdom and love of Christ.”

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