I believe in the True. I believe in the Good. I believe in the Beautiful.

I believe that God embodies all these things, and that we partake of them in bits and pieces that are often dim and incomplete, in our humanity.

But a few weeks ago, David and I were talking about the concept of “a black and white world, with no shades of gray,” and it…chafed. Grated.

Let’s be honest. We’ve all heard this argument, especially in faith communities, right? We see the world around us, the society that not only makes excuses for what we deem sin, but which embraces it; a culture that creates its own definitions of good that sometimes have nothing to do with God’s definition, and which often directly contradict it. We sense the wrongness of it in our spirits, and we want to name it for what it is.

Knowing our own consciences, knowing God’s definitions is CRUCIAL. Important. Something to be pursued.

But…as I pondered a black and white world, one with no shades of gray, I couldn’t help but look around me at the world through which we were walking as we talked–the world with fresh green buds on the trees, with the first daffodils poking their yellow yeads up through spring-green stalks. I couldn’t help but see the blue sky and the red cardinal winging by, the first tiny purple flowers nestled along the path, the way the clouds streaked orange and pink as the sun set lower.

And I sensed a deeper truth. God did not create a world of either black and white or shades of gray.

God created a world of rich, vibrant color.

What does this mean in terms of right and wrong? I think we might we be surprised. I think it means that He gave us laws and then makes exceptions–exceptions that are often touted as the most righteous.

God detests a lying tongue…but the midwives in Egypt were praised for lying to Pharaoh to protect the innocent lives he wanted to destroy.

God called lepers and bleeding women unclean, but Jesus not only touched and healed both, He praised their faith in stepping forward.

God set the Sabbath up as the very first thing to be observed, even before the Law was given to Moses, and Jesus shows us that doing good, doing the work of God on the Sabbath was never what the Lord meant for us to refuse to do on that holy day.

Jesus shows us a world of depth. Of nuance. Of color. Color that is lit entirely by love. When we see the world through His Light, we get the full spectrum–and know that there are parts of it still beyond our human eyes, right? In ranges we can’t quite conceive. We know that sometimes, when we use His love, His light with the right prism, it fractures into a rainbow of richness we’d never imagined was there.

Black and white as representations of right and wrong is an analogy that is simple and understandable…but it’s also misleading, I think. Because it looks at the rule instead of the person. It looks at the letter instead of the love. God set down a LOT of rules and laws, yes…but He also said the ones that should govern everything are to love Him above all, and to love our neighbors.

When you love your neighbors as yourself, there’s room for grace. There’s room for mercy. Take as an example the parable of the servant who was forgiven a huge debt by his master but then refused to show mercy to his fellow servant for a small debt. He was within his legal rights–his moral rights–to demand that repayment. In terms of black and white, that was clear. But Jesus invites us to see more than those stark shades, doesn’t He? He invites us to ask, “But how would I want to be treated?”

Even in questions of morality. Even in questions of right and wrong. There is a right and wrong, yes. Absolutely. But how we react to it doesn’t need to be so stark. How we react ought to be to draw out the prism of His love and see how the Light sheds new light upon it. To see the red of the bleeding heart before us. To see the blue of despair in the person desperate to find their place in the world. To see the bright yellow of a joy that shouldn’t just be snuffed out, to see the green of tender growth that needs to be nourished, not stomped on. To see the purple of penitent souls and the orange of the fire for justice blazing hot within them.

We need to see the people, not just their actions. We need to see the motivation and the need and the yearning, not just the political stance. We need to see the colors, my friends, not just the black and white image.

Because when we see the world only in black and white, it’s so easy to lose our focus. And worse, it’s so easy to be deceived. Did you know that in old black and white movies, they discovered that the best way to convey makeup and clothing colors were often to use the opposite? “Red” lips were made using a green lipstick. If you saw the shots in color, you’d be horrified! But in black and white, that nice deep green conveys red better than red did.

How ironic is that? And yet, how often do we fall prey to the same thing in life? How often does harshness seem to convey the love of God better than gentleness? How often does hating our enemies seem “purer” than trying to see their point of view? How often do we prefer to stay “apart from the things of this world” rather than try to redeem them?

But friends, we don’t serve a God of black and white. We do serve a God who separated the Light from the Darkness…but He did so by creating light that is NOT white. It’s color. It’s every color. It’s every shade. It’s ultra-colors that our human eyes cannot perceive. It’s red and orange and yellow and green, it’s blue and indigo and violet. It’s more than those.

So next time we ponder what’s right and what’s wrong, I hope that we can look at it not just through a lens, but through a prism. I hope we can see that, yes, there is a Truth and a Goodness and Beauty, but within that blinding White Truth, there is nuance. There is color.

There is always, always room for grace, and for mercy…and for Love.

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