Have you ever noticed we humans tend to think of almost everything in terms of either/or? We know things that are black and white always have shades of gray, but we tend to dislike the gray areas. We have a difficult time wrapping our minds around ideas, situations and even people that don’t fit into our preconceived notions of how they should be. Taking the shades of gray into account means we have to be flexible, open-minded and willing to let things be a bit uncertain.
We also tend to think God is the same way, that with him, everything is black and white – good or bad, on the naughty or nice list, going to heaven or consigned to hell. Trying to figure out how he thinks is an exercise in futility at best and dangerous at worst. Isaiah 55:8-9 are verses we should keep in mind or our brains could explode: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (NIV).
But we do know he is full of grace which teaches us that what seems either/or to us isn’t necessarily so with God. We say things like, if you hurt me or slander me, you can’t be my friend. We used to hear of parents who disowned their children for disobeying them. We are quick to judge and condemn others when God would give them a second chance. We think we know how to tell if someone is saved or not and we write off people we think are lost causes.
In this increasingly polarized and divided society, may we all remember that people aren’t either/or, but are complicated spiritual beings with many shades of gray. Jesus understands who we are all the way down, while we often don’t understand ourselves or others. Let’s try to be flexible, open-minded and less hasty to judge others, giving them the latitude to fall somewhere between either and or.