Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shades of Gray

At the park, one of the moms in our group suggested that we give ourselves a break from talking about our husbands and kids all the time and instead read a book and then discuss it.  Her book suggestion was the monstrously bestselling series that, as she explained to another woman unfamiliar with it, is essentially "porn for housewives."

The mom who proposed this is involved with the local youth group at her church and is a professing Christian.

Her remark brought to mind the temple precincts and its outer court, where Gentiles (non-Jews) were allowed to go.  They could walk within this outer court so long as they showed deference,  but were permitted to go no further.  Under threat of death by a sign that was posted in Latin and in Greek, any non-Jew who sought to go beyond this would have himself to blame for his execution.  Beyond the outer court was the Court of the Women, then the Court of the Israelites, and finally the Holy of Holies.

The boundaries between these courts were significant because they distinguished God's people as set apart.  (It was for the alleged crime of bringing Gentiles into the temple that Paul was nearly beaten to death in  Acts 21:27-32).  Paul states to the church in Ephesus that Christ's death "brought down the dividing wall" between the Jews and Gentiles, bringing near those who were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenant of promise" (Ephesians 2:12,14).

The temple setup is a picture to me of so many Christians who go no further than the Outer Court.  Because they are not set apart in their own minds and in their actions, they do not know real fellowship with Christ.  They prefer to stay on the outskirts, mixing with the world and simultaneously enjoying only the fringe knowledge of Him, never accessing the Holy of Holies for which His blood paid such a price.

There are choices one must make that are not always defined by scripture as sin.  Yet neither are they holy. One could say that these "shades of gray" are worldliness.  Worldliness prevents believers from going further with Him and keeps them from deriving true satisfaction.  The deadliness of worldly behavior is that it's not always immediately recognizable as transgressing, but rather somewhere along the way a line has been blurred.

In actuality, there are no gray areas for a believer.  As the first letter of John says it, "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him" (1 John 2:27).

So the question for the choices of life for Christians, including what to read, what to watch, what to wear, is not whether it is permissible, but whether it will keep us shuffling around in the Outer Court, separated from the surpassing splendor of the Holy of Holies.

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