There is a spiritual conundrum (or dilemma) that many of us have had to face or have faced at some point in time in our life. I believe that we are living in a time where we see this dilemma growing more and more in our society. The dilemma: to act righteously or to act wickedly? Is it OK for us, followers of Christ, to live my life spiritually in the gray?
We live in a world that is growing more and more corrupt both morally and spiritually. We, mankind, used to fear God and fear His wrath against sin, but now, not so much.
There are some believers who wonder is it possible to take a wicked action for a righteous purpose? We have this growing idea that there is nothing wrong with living life in “the gray”. So one must answer this question: Is it OK for believers to live life spiritually in the gray? If you don’t understand what this means, let’s explain this concept to you.
How many of us have heard of trying to live in the gray? This is not a completely new concept so hopefully you are familiar with it, but if not, we will dive into this concept for a moment today.
At the end of last Sunday’s sermon, I briefly mentioned the word duality. Duality: an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something; a dualism. Some of us, through our faith, now look at life in black and whites — we are already aware of the spiritual duality according to our faith in Christ.
I’m sure all of us are familiar with the yin and yang symbol, right? The yin and yang symbol is probably the best representation of duality in imagery.
What research I did typically spoke of how the symbol represents two opposite parts – “dark-bright”, “negative-positive”. The two parts, while being opposites, were brought together as a whole in which both parts complemented the other. (Complement: a thing that completes or brings to perfection.) So, the idea is that if you could merge the two different parts to work together, then it would make the person more whole (or complete).
So, the question is: Is such a thing possible in Christianity? Is this type of complementary duality possible in the faith of Christ? Can the two opposing forces work together so that you can be a better, more complete, person? There are some believers who believe it is possible and even attempts to live spiritually in this gray area of the Christian faith. But can you truly work the righteous works of God while living spiritually in the gray?
Can wickedness be complementary to righteousness?
These questions might be easier to answer for some than it is for others. In the Christian faith, there is a well defined spiritual duality. Paul speaks of this duality in my key verse for today.
You will notice that Paul speaks of walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. To walk in the Spirit is to strive to live righteously, and to fulfill the lusts of the flesh is to be striving to live in your own way to fulfill your desires without God.
So, the two differing forces or aspects we believe are present is pretty clear: righteousness and wickedness. It does not take us coming all the way to Paul’s letters in the bible for us to see this laid out for us. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is filled with this duality at work in our world.
We know that righteousness is God and of God. This is nothing new to those of you have listened to me preach or have been reading my sermons over the years. God is righteous because He is always right; He creates the laws and way we are to obey. The only way we can become righteous is through faith in Him (Rom. 3:22).
Wickedness, on the other hand, we tie into some of the most heinous and immoral actions a person can take. To steal from somebody, we say that is wicked. When you can habitually lie to someone, we would say that is a wicked person. If your intentions are to stir up a mess everywhere you go, we would say it takes a wicked person to do that. We say that a wicked person is capable of killing and hurting others. Whatever is morally bad, we consider it to be wicked.
Spiritual wickedness according to God
As we saw last Sunday, Solomon defined spiritual wickedness as anything that opposes God’s righteousness. Anything that opposes the Lord’s righteousness is sin to God. For those that need the actions of the spiritual wicked more well defined for them, you can see some of them, according to Paul, here in Galatians 5. Some acts of wickedness includes: adultery, fornication, idolatry, hatred, and selfish ambitions (Gal. 5:19-21).
So, the question is whether or not one can live in wickedness – do these actions – but also do the works of God (righteousness)? For someone to be capable of living with doing these things, it must mean that they are accepting of what they are doing – no regrets, no remorse. The believe what they are doing in wickedness is actually right. What this must also mean is that this person feels no need whatsoever to go to God in genuine repentance of such wickedness.
Something does not sound right about that to me. How can someone try to do the good works of God but also be a practitioner of idolatry? Again, how can someone say that they are doing the works of God but also be a practitioner in the way of hatred, contentions, and dissensions? Trying to live spiritually in the gray just does not sound right or possible to me.
No man is perfect
Someone smart will say, “Preacher, no man is perfect.” Yes, Solomon did indeed write that there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin (Ecc. 7:20). Yet, the difference between this just man and the one who believes that there is a gray area to live in is the fact that the just man recognizes his wrong! Not only does he recognize his wickedness, but he knows it is wicked and needs to go to God!
You see, in my faith, when I have done wrong, I know that I have done the wrong and I feel terrible about it. I go to God, admit my wrong doing (I repent), and pray His mercy and forgiveness on me. Again, someone will say, “But you’re still not perfect, Preacher.” I am certainly not perfect, but I strive to put my old ways behind and live for Christ! I recognize I am a sinner but I also recognize I need the Lord and this is why I follow and preach the name of Christ!
What we find is that this person who believes they can live spiritually in the gray is doing just like the overly righteous person. They have come up with their own way that they believe is right instead of simply being obedient to God’s way. There way, however, is not as strict as the way of the overly righteous; it is also not strict enough. We now have a double-minded person who is trying to live on two opposite paths at the same time.
The double-minded man
The double-minded person is one that is doomed to fail spiritually. James spoke about the double-minded man and said that he is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). What makes him unstable? The answer would be his foundation. The double-minded man does not have a true foundation for his faith because his focus is all over the place.
As we have been seeing in our recent Sunday School lessons, it takes true dedication for one to genuinely follow after Christ. In order to follow after Christ, one has to be able to let go of the world – the lusts of the flesh. The problem that many people who want to follow after Christ face is letting go of themselves. It is difficult for some people to let go of their old ways because we live in a world that has always taught acceptance of the ways of the wicked.
The truth of the matter is that spiritual wickedness cannot complement righteousness no matter how one tries to bend the idea. Paul clearly writes that the two aspects are contrary to each other (Gal. 5:17). The wicked (or sinful) self wants what goes against the Spirit and will fight against the Spirit. The fruit of righteousness (the Spirit) is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). How can things like hatred, outbursts of wrath, and envy ever be a complement to those works or righteousness?
What is the dilemma?
Yet, there are many people who have professed their in Christ that struggle with living their life for Christ. There is a spiritual conundrum of what is right and what is wrong. Also, there is a great dilemma many of these believers face when it comes to letting go of old and wicked ways. If you are true to your confession, I tell you that there should be no dilemma.
This is simple: be obedient to your calling in the Lord – nothing more or less. Did Christ live spiritually in the gray? Did He live in a manner of wickedness while He walked this earth? Absolutely not! There was and is absolutely no wickedness in Christ! He was without blemish — no gray.
A believer cannot perform the good work of righteousness by also acting as a sinner as well! No, we are not perfect but we cannot live in a manner where we are accepting of our sin but preach fire and damnation against other sinners! If we are going to follow after Christ, let us live in a manner where there is no gray in us. We need not to be accepting of our wickedness but to keep it in check, go to God in repentance, and do our best to stay in His way.