No Shades of Grey

Other than Paul, the apostle John is the most prolific author of New Testament books. He is credited with writing all four books with his name (John, 1-3 John) as well as the Revelation. When reading John’s works, as is true with authors today, patterns and points of emphasis become increasingly clear. John was a man who, like Jesus, often spoke in absolutes and contrasts. While we often think of John as the apostle of love, as he refers to himself as the apostle that “Jesus loved” (John 13.23) and wrote such things as “God is Love” (1 John 4.8), John is also a man who sees the world as Jesus did, in black and white, clear-cut and devoid of grey areas.

John’s works are filled with stark contrasts between two positions, the first of which he highlights being the Light and the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1.5) Here we see the contrast between the Light, Jesus Christ, and the utter darkness of everything that exists apart from Him. Jesus will also use this same imagery in John’s gospel to describe Himself: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12) There is no theological “wiggle room” here. The Word (as Jesus is called in John 1.1) declares Himself the only path to life and light. “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and find pasture. (John 10.9)

Light and dark are not the only set of contrasts John highlights. John makes clear distinctions between loving the world and loving God (1 John 2.15), children of God and children of the devil (1 John 3.10), life and death (1 John 3.14), righteousness and unrighteousness (Rev. 22.11), of the world and not of the world (John 15.19), Christ and antichrist (2 John 1.7), and many others. John is not the only author to speak in terms of clear contrasts. The nation of Israel stood split on Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal in Deut. 27 to declare the blessings and cursings of the Law of Moses. Matthew 25 refers to the judgment scene as the division between sheep (righteous) and goats (unrighteous). When the Bible speaks on right and wrong, devotion to God or devotion to the world, saved or lost, the scripture is clear. There are no “shades of grey”.

This is rarely mentioned in our politically-correct world, and it is sorely needed today. In our society we are not supposed to judge an activity as sinful for fear of offending the one engaging in that activity. We are made reluctant to share our faith and beliefs with others by fear of “imposing” on another person’s feelings. People today want to view everything in shades of grey, where nothing is absolute, truth is relative and right/wrong is the product of your experiences and circumstances. In this world, we are all permitted to have our own beliefs, but not allowed to share them or judge others by them, as the ultimate standard is constantly shifting popular opinion. The result? Everyone is ok, no one really needs to change, religion is a myth and our ultimate goal becomes self-gratification. Sound familiar? God condemned this perverted version of the truth, where nothing is definite and all is up for debate: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5.20)

As you can see, viewing the world in varying shades of grey does not match what the Bible teaches. If we would seek to be like Christ, as we are called to be (1 John 2.6), then we must be willing to view the world as Jesus viewed it. There is truth and falsehood, light and darkness, good and evil, saved and lost, all of which are not defined by man, but given to us by God through His inspired scriptures. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1.3). It is time for us to declare to a world that hates absolutes that there are a few they will eventually be forced to recognize, whether they like it or not, such as “for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14.11-12) and “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13.3)