Dealing with the “Gray Matters”

I was first introduced to Brett McCracken during my time at Taylor University when he came to speak about his first book “Hipster Christianity.” My time in college was right in the middle of the emergence of the “cool Christianity” taking off where many my age were dealing with the issues raise by the Emergent Church and doing our best to reconcile these new issues with our generally conservative Evangelical upbringing. I quickly found myself spending time with those of the more reformed persuasion popularized by Collin Hansen’s “Young, Restless and Reformed.” Along with our questions of faith came the questions of the legalistic upbringing we experienced including, but not limited to: no drinking, no dancing, no smoking, no R rated movies (unless it’s about Jesus), no swearing and no cards. (Ok, the no cards rule was my grandma’s when my dad and I took them out to play some Rook). As my friends and I grew during college we were also expected to sign an agreement saying we would continue to uphold these things during our time in college (Taylor recently lifted their ban on dancing, but I was already gone). 4 years after I heard Brett speak, I finally got around to reading his newer book “Grey Matters.” In it, Brett wrestles with 4 areas that have been divisive among Christians for many years: food, movies, music and alcohol, the latter being the most divisive in recent years (see John McArthur’s letter to the Young, Restless and Reformed).

Throughout the book Brett doesn’t shy away from recognizing that these areas can be divisive for people and does a fantastic job of acknowledging problems on both sides of these issues. The most surprising one for me was the section on food. How many of spend any time thinking about what we’re eating and why? Or why some foods taste so good and others don’t (those that don’t seem to always be the healthy ones. What’s the deal with that!?). Yet through all 4 of these areas discussed, they offer opportunities for us to worship God as we’re commanded to do in 1 Corinthians 10:31.

One of the keys that emerged from the book for me was how community changes all these areas. I really enjoy cooking-thinking through the spices and different ingredients can be combined together to form something that doesn’t taste anything like the separate ingredients on their own. And even better: pairing said meal with a good wine or beer. Yet when I cook a big meal and sit down to eat by myself, it’s never as enjoyable. I generally try to invite someone or someone’s over to enjoy it with me. There’s something even better about eating within the context of a community. And this is true of the other areas discussed as well.

All of us have a favorite band that we could listen to on repeat all day (or bands). How many people have you told about your favorite bands by giving them a CD or having them listen with you? And the same thing is said about movies. They’re so much more enjoyable when you can discuss the movie with someone later. And finally, the four letter word in some Christian circles: alcohol. Being able to discuss the different flavors accented by a beer or wine is a very enjoyable community experience that allows us to learn from each other (as long as everyone is legally able to partake, if you’re in the US and under the age of 21, this shouldn’t take place).

So I’m grateful that I finally took the time to read this book, it’s very helpful in thinking through a number of the ramifications that come from dealing with these gray areas in life, and all of them can either help or hinder our worship of God. How do you think you can use gray areas as an opportunity to worship God within the context of community?

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2 Comments

  1. Donalee Strand

     /  May 6, 2014

    I am guessing Michael that you have prayerfully considered what will be helpful and what will be harmful as you step into more and more leadership in the church. God has called us all to be his servants, and those in leadership and teaching will be held to a higher standard. if you are truly trusting in God to lead you as a shepherd of His flock, you will have the Holy Spirit guiding you in all things.I think when I am studying Jesus’s life here on Earth, his times of feeding the thousands included fish and bread…not a lot else….I think he spent much of his time serving others needs and therefore didn’t care much about the rest for himself..only them. I love what you said about community, being together to share these things! Maybe, in the end there is way too much emphasis on our own self gratification ( me included) and not enough on serving the needs of others…not to say we can’t have fun, but I think we all think too much about our culture and maybe should be focusing more on Him! Just some thoughts..thanks for sharing yours…great posts!

    Reply
  2. Good word, Michael. I bought Brett’s book, but I haven’t yet read it. An important piece to remember is the believer’s conscience. As Romans 14 says, “Anything that does not precede from faith is sin.” If that’s the case, then I need to know myself and how God has wired my brain – that doesn’t mean that can’t change over time, but knowing and respecting the Holy Spirit’s convictions in my life is my duty as a Christian.

    Good thoughts! I enjoyed reading your review so I kind of know what’s coming when I read it myself.

    Camden

    Reply

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