We were up in the modest but majestic Ouachita Mountains on a back-packing adventure with our youth group. I, the youth pastor had thoroughly planned for everything except the weather.
So, we were holed up, at night, in tents, while the rain poured. In my tent were three bored teenage boys.
I decided we should play some cards to pass the time. I shuffled the deck and taught them the game, “I doubt it.”
I said, “I’ll deal all the cards, then we’ll go around the circle and discard them in order. If you don’t have what you need – you should lie and say you do.” (unbelievable! a youth pastor who taught his kids how to lie) “The first to get rid of all their cards wins.”
They nodded as if they understood. I laid the first card facedown, “One 2” I said. Little brother then discarded “One 3.” The next brother was short of 4’s, but nevertheless laid a card and said, “One 4.” The tremble on his lip gave him away. “I doubt it!” I said. We flipped his card and found it was an 8. He got stuck with the pile.
On it went without a glitch till we got into the double digits. Tens had been laid, and jacks were next. But the oldest brother said, “One 11.” “What – one 11?” Before I could object, the next sibling laid down two 12s.
It was then that I learned that these boys had never played nor had even seen a deck of cards before. It was a moral “taboo” in their home! (I promise this didn’t happen in the 1940’s)
I began to sweat bullets wondering how I was going to explain to their parents that I had stolen the innocence of all three all at once.
So what do we make of this?
Christians have been given a body of truth that we are obligated to believe and practice. Which is why there should be no debate that Christ is eternal God.
BUT we have also been given the freedom to come to different convictions concerning issues that the Scripture does not directly address – the “gray” issues they call them. Like the kind of music we enjoy, our preferred style of dress or hair color; the Scripture translation we read, whether to patronize a brewery, or vote for a certain politician or buy a lottery ticket and yes, the use of playing cards.
Of these Paul would say, “Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up. Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person.” 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
In other words, it may be lawful for me to play cards, but not necessarily beneficial to the boys. If my choice erodes the faith of a less mature Christian, then I am told to forgo it.
Too late – I blew it. I unknowingly introduced the boys to the dark world of card playing. I thought to myself, “Maybe I need to reeducate those parents – get them to loosen up a little.”
“Better not,” says Paul, “Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister.” Romans 14:13.
ME: “But Paul they are uptight and confused on this issue and I really like to play cards.”
PAUL: “Do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil.” (14:16)
ME: “Well, OK but it doesn’t please me.”
Paul: “The one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people.” (14:18)
Me: “Well if I can’t play cards with the boys what can I do?”
Paul: “Pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.” 14:19
Me: “OK, I guess I really need to be careful with these gray areas.”
While I was writing this blog, a large church group canvased our neighborhood to invite us to worship with them. Every female was dressed in a longish skirt – perhaps a church wide conviction. Ironically, the pastor’s last name is Gray?
Though we may not agree, I prepared to welcome them at the door with the love of Christ.
As to my backpacking buddies. Their parents did not flog me on Facebook, or leave our church, nor did any of the boys grow up to be reprobates (yet).
And I learned a little more about responding to the gray issues
A PRAYER: Lord help me to walk in a way that does not cause others to stumble.
– Scripture references are from the NETBible ®