Avoiding Spiritual Gray Zones
In your walk with Christ sometimes you got be aware of spiritual gray zones. These are areas in which it’s not clear if something is wicked or innocent. It can also be areas where a teaching is not confirmed to be consistent with the Gospel and the character of God. At such an instance its useful to know what a ‘Gray zone’ means.
Meaning of Gray zone: (Noun) An intermediate area between two opposing positions; a situation, subject, etc., not clearly or easily defined, or not covered by an existing category or set of rules. (Oxford Dictionary)
One might wonder that what is so dangerous about spiritual gray zones. Due to highly ambiguous nature of these things its better to give out a few examples. Here we go:
- Mr A, is a Christian guy who wants to do great things for the Lord God. He wants to perform miracles of healing so as to help the sick and dying. Now even after years of going to church, going to Bible studies and having five hours of daily prayer and also, fasting twice a week, he is unable to heal anyone. Suddenly Mr A, gets to know of a secret group that claims to be Christian and say they can teach anyone to heal within 3 days. However their condition is that he donates a very large sum of money to an offshore bank account of theirs and also sign a no refund clause. Further more, they want him to not discuss with anyone in his local church about this. He thinks whether to do a little ‘sacrifice for the greater good’ or if its wrong to not speak to his church people and leaders about this. He gets a call from an unknown number asking him to ‘not delay his conversion from day-to-day but rather donate in the next 2 minutes or his time of ‘grace’ will depart from him forever’. Mr A is now totally confused since he never took down his preachers phone number.
- Miss J, is egged on by her friends to marry a man who is given to womanizing and drug abuse. They claim the only way for this man’s soul to be saved is by Miss J marrying him and using her influence as a wife to preach the Gospel to him. Miss J doesn’t like that idea. But her friends tell her that all preachers tried to bring a change in that sleazy man but nothing happened and say that only genuine love will convince that man to accept the Gospel. She is not aware that her friends are promised a fortune by this impious man who knows that by his character itself, he won’t be able to convince her to marry him. Miss J is scared of using marriage as front to preach the Gospel or to let this man’s soul slip into hell forever.
- Preacher Z, is approached by people of another church. They say they got a gold bracelet with the name of their church on it. And they promise to send him a generous tithe each month as long he wears the gold bracelet on his right hand. Now preacher Z is in need of some serious funding for his new missionary project in Namibia. He ponders that if it’s all a matter of wearing a gold bracelet without any change in what he preaches, then what could possibly go wrong.
Let me explain the dangers of each of the above examples. In the first example, Mr A stands likely to be scammed big time if he donates a big sum of money abroad. And if he later contacts law enforcement or legal resources there is very little scope to get his money back. Also if he were to hide things from his preacher, then when he gets scammed, even the preacher and the church to which he belongs will be surprised at his lack of vigilance and eventually this can affect his reputation.
For the second example, if Miss J were to marry the womanizer, there is no guarantee he will ever accept the Gospel. Besides, when he eventually will cheat on her, none of those scheming friends of hers will help. And if she approaches her church they will offer prayers and sympathies but will find it difficult to mend their marriage.
And for the third example, if Preacher Z takes the gold bracelet, it can bring disgrace and controversy to his church and denomination at large. This holds true especially if the other church that gave the bracelet of gold, turns out to be a cult or a heretical organisation. People can and will think of him endorsing their false doctrines.
In cases of spiritual gray zone’s here’s what you can do:
- Do not act on your impulses but think what could be the long-term consequences. Also think how would you deal with those consequences.
- Do not be over secretive that you don’t take counsel from the right person of God as want to hide things from him or her.
- Do read the Bible on a regular basis. Read the various parts of it pertaining to wisdom and discernment, instead of only going for your favourite verses. This should help you remember the counsel of the Bible if in case there is a very quick decision to make or you don’t have access to a faithful and wise preacher of the Gospel. Reading the Bible regularly needs discipline and setting the right priorities to use your time, though.
- If it’s too good to be real, do not had over money nor time nor your emotions etc to such things or people. Instead research it. If you cannot research it, then like I said earlier don’t be too shy to get counsel from the wise people of God available to you.
- Pray about it for clarity from God. This is where you ask God to deliver from all lies because he the God of truth and not chaos.
Just to let you know, I too faced a very dangerous spiritual gray zone around 2009-2010. I would preach and minister to a growing group of teenagers and those in their early twenties. Some prefer to call them youth or young adults. The point is these youngsters had problems of the spiritual sort; false gods, drinking, smoking, false relationships etc. So myself and some of my contemporaries were given leadership over them. And due to various reasons these youth were comfortable to reach to us for their problems and we would help to come out of their bad habits. We would intercede for them, fast for them and when they are with, lead them in praise and worship of Jesus. This caused lots of lots of youth who at time wouldn’t come to church to come to us instead. It was a nice opportunity for myself to slowly and steadily get them attend church without any forcing.
However, this didn’t sit well in due course of time with the main Christian circle I was in. They accused us of ‘meeting the needs of the youth so that they don’t come to the main body’. They asked to ‘stop preaching the Gospel since that is what fulfills the needs of the youth and this will cause them to reach out to the main body’. It took me a day or two to come to a decision after praying and my reply to them was “Why do you want me to not follow the commandment of God?” So they asked what commandment and I replied “The great commission to preach the Gospel”. Followed by “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)” They were horrified at my reply and asked me will I reconsider and follow their ‘authority’ in this matter and only do praise and worship with the youth. Remembering some of the youth, who said that the main body was not that effective in counseling them, I said no to the main body and that’s the last they interacted with me. Later I found that almost all the youth never ‘integrated’ in to the main body consisting of married adults. My point is, I had to make a decision to follow God’s commandment or the opinions of man, even if that is of the elders when it was all a gray area to me.
Christ be with you, as you overcome the gray areas of your life!
Study the Bible like a soldier on a mission
Study the Bible with a real and strong purpose which is that you glorify God. There are lots of hurting and poor people who need your help and prayers. We are living in a fallen world and people are still stuck in theirs sin. Do your part to study the Word of God so that you can bring the hope of Christ to others in need of healing and deliverance.
Snatch and grab ministry
Sometimes marriage, deliverance, healing and counseling ministries have elements of snatch and grab. Be willing to do it all for the glory of God.
For instance, you get a woman crying to you about her husband going to divorce her due to her fault of sexual immorality. You then pray with her and strongly correct her behavior patterns by preaching the word of God to her. With much prayer and courage you can then approach her husband in presence of elders of the church and see if its possible for him to forgive her and for her to never break his trust again. And God willing they’d both reconcile with each other and live a happy married life. However in the midst of getting back with each other, they don’t thank you! Don’t worry, you’ve just done a snatch and grab operation. Though they didn’t thank you, Jesus takes note of what you’ve done in his honor and will surely reward you for this.
You might deliver a man plagued with evil spirits but since he’s a man of repute he won’t even acknowledge you as the servant of God as he feels his image must be maintained. Never feel bad about that. Simply give thanks that you in the name of Jesus could deliver him from trouble and pray that such a man someday understands the value of his deliverance. There’s no need to be resentful. Just go on to the next person who need rescuing from demons.
Sometimes you might have prayed for a person who is in a dying condition and she got well. Today if she walks by you in church she doesn’t say a little hello to you. Again you snatched her out of the fire. She’s not yet truly thankful but that doesn’t mean you get bitter. Thank the Lord you could work with such a forgetful person and yet God healed her when you called on to his name.
I sometimes have counseled people who were in trouble. They used my advice to make themselves better but never bother to contact me again. I’d still come to know that they were blessed. I felt what is the use of me helping them. Then I realized this goes beyond people. This is my service to the Lord God that I help his people and that’s what matters. This is what made to make a choice that I won’t stop giving counsel to people who come to me for counsel that is consistent with the Scriptures.
In terms of snatch and grab, it’s not about your glory nor your fame, it’s about the Lord God and how you serve him. Receiving thanks and compliments shouldn’t be on your mind. Your desire instead must be that God works through you and in you for the person whom you are rescuing from sin and death.
We are greatly encouraged to snatch people of the fire and of course we are to keep due diligence in the process. Please read the below verses:
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:20-23)
Though the following verses are not a command, I’d still like to mention it as the Lord takes a lot of interest in those he plucks out of the fire and how he wishes that they are sanctified. Please read the following:
3 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. (Zechariah 3:1-5)
Christ be with you as you snatch people out of the fire!
The need for full Christian counseling
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)
There are times when a person needs counseling in life due to various problems, trials, decisions etc which come up in the course of life. It does help to be independent in the sense of having a rightful opinion of oneself and living a disciplined life. However, it’s even wiser to get wisdom and counsel from a person who truly walks the talk. I mean the walk with Christ. If one can expect a counselor to be so pristine in action and words then what if you were to be in a situation where you have to counsel someone? You too then need to be good enough.
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)
Now in your life you won’t always be the one in need of counsel from others in the Christian faith. There may come an occasion in which you need to counsel others. Perhaps they might be children or someone facing trouble in life and you are the only person available at that point of time to help them. What would you do then? It would be unwise to shun people who willingly ask you for advice. Obviously its your responsibility to live a holy and prayerful life and give wise counsel in good faith to those in need of wisdom. The thing is you must be able to give full Christian counseling. In other words, please don’t give incomplete guidance to anyone. It won’t help them as much.
So let’s think of an example of full Christian counselling. Let me present to you the issue first. A typical issue is about disharmony between teenagers and their parents. So we have a teenager, let’s call him Adam and the rest of various counselors he meets, we shall name them as we go along. Here he visits various people one by one for counsel in the church premises during a seminar at church. (Though on a cautious note, I would always recommend anyone who needs counsel, to know if the people who are going to counsel you are really worthy and safe enough to give you counsel. You need genuine Christian counseling not foolish worldly counseling)
Adam: “My parents tend to get very angry all of a sudden with me. The arguments then go very long. I don’t say a word back but they keep yelling and asking me to get better in life. But they don’t say where to change. Please help, tell me what to do”
Now come a bunch of typical responses to Adam’s predicament:
- Harry: “Forgive them.”
- Tessa: “Everyone has to face challenges in life.”
- Jacob: “You must learn to be patient.”
- Gwen: “Pray about it.”
Each of these four responses are good but they still not complete. I will get to a more complete answer in a bit. But so that things get more clear, I shall mention two more responses before that.
Then we have a response, which is not actual counsel. At times you got to be honest that you don’t know the answer instead of wasting time. Here’s what would be the response:
John: “I don’t know to say but I want you and your family to be happy. Please, can you go to preacher (insert any name) at Camden? He should be able to help.”
Then we also have another response which does raises more questions rather than be a good answer. Here we go:
Gemma: “O dear, my child that’s really bad. I’d suggest that you study hard, get a job and move out of your home. Be independent, that should take care of it all”
Such an answer put’s undue pressure on Adam to get working and excludes any possibility that Adam’s parents are at fault. It would make him look solely responsible to set things right. This answer doesn’t talk about depending on God and neither about being in good standing with one’s parents. Besides, it does not address any depression that Adam could be facing.
Now here’s a more complete answer to Adam’s problem:
Barnaby: “Indeed Adam this is a tough situation you are facing. It could be that your parents have noticed something wrong but are not able to express themselves clearly and have obviously gone too rough with that. What I suggest that you be calm no matter what happens. Forgive them their faults and don’t get discouraged. Many others do face similar challenges but not everyone has a happy ending. You have a choice to be victorious in all this. With God at your side you aren’t alone. He understands your feelings so cast all your worries upon him as he cares for you. Read the Bible especially the Psalms and Proverbs to know the principles of progress and peace in life. This will give you guidance when you desire to do what is right to be a success in life. Knowing what is right will then be useful in keeping away from all silliness of life. I shall later pray for you but I ask this one of you; that you daily pray that your parents are at peace with you. Pray also that every evil power be it visible or invisible, I mean everything from the devil is removed out from the relationship between you and your parents. Remember this is more than being an achiever, this is about relationships. So conduct yourself with due honour to parents and also to God. Be of good courage Adam as the Lord God cares for you.”
The response by Barnaby is one which full in wisdom and counsel. No bits and pieces here but rather he tried to cover everything the best he could. He didn’t go by impulses when speaking to Adam. He was realistic about the problems and about the parents. Such a response would help Adam to have better chances of being at peace with his parents.
By this example you’d notice that it does take some level of maturity and understanding to counsel others. Showing empathy is vital to show your solidarity with the afflicted person you are counselling. Having a sound knowledge of the principles of the Bible will help you to this effect. Above all, pray to Christ our Lord that he strengthen you by the Holy Spirit so that you can give hope that is consistent with the Bible to anyone that comes your way.
Christ be with you!