I’ve been struck again and again how people are so much more comfortable with black and white categories. If something is a sin, then it is easier to dismiss it (and any entangled in it) completely than engage with those people for their restoration and help. It is easier to take a “weak” position on everything morally neutral than be strong enough to face the complexities of life. It is easier to hang on to an unchanging past than it is to face the uncertainties of a possibly changing future. Yet as preachers we need to face up to our opportunity to train people for life.
Generally it is our task to take the complex and make it understandable. Clarity over confusion any day. But we don’t want to give people the impression that life can be lived in absolute black and white simplistic categories in respect to every issue. That would be to misapply a passion for clarity. Life is complex. People are complex. Situations that we face are complex.
As preachers we need to give people permission to not have a crystal clear position on everything (sometimes we, as believers, are still trying to work out what will please the Lord in certain situations).
We also need to give people the tools to be able to face the complexities and think through them biblically, with compassion for others, with humility, etc.
We need to be wary of stirring up inappropriate “convictions” in people that haven’t had their positions tested and proven. I always remember one of my teachers at seminary reminding us that we can’t call an untested position a conviction. He urged us not to be so dogmatic about things we are still learning about. I think he was right. People with vocal “convictions” are not the same thing as people with genuinely proven convictions and maturity.
How does our preaching equip people for real life? How does it aid people in their path to maturity?
Life is not always crystal clear and binary (either 1 or 0). A lot of life is lived in between the two extremes.