Even the messiest among us likes some small amount of order. We are creatures who like categories and labels … a short hand that helps us process through an issue or a person without much thought. In our busy lives, it’s just easier to use this short hand to deal with the world. We only have to engage in that which we feel is truly important.
But what are we missing?
So much of life falls outside the neat little boxes and rules we try to cram our existence into. We uphold the Ten Commandments as a core of our values. But do we really look beyond just the surface of the Decalogue? In a very real sense, many of us break the Commandments daily. But is that truly the intent of these laws, that we should strictly adhere to them?
“You shall not kill,” seems like a straightforward rule to follow. But how does it apply to the soldier fighting in Afghanistan? How does that command apply to the woman and her daughter being brutally abused by the woman’s spouse? She comes home to find her husband strangling the child and ends his life to save her daughter. How does she fit into the neat box?
“You shall not commit adultery,” is thorny as well. A man divorces his wife because she refuses to stop abusing drugs. He fears the impact her addiction will have on their son. He divorces her and remarries. He provides a stable, loving home for both his son and the son of his new wife. Technically, he’s committed adultery. But was staying with a wife who chose drugs over her husband and child some how less ethical than committing an act of adultery?
A young man tells his parents he is gay and they subsequently throw him out of their house. He is rejected by both immediate and extended family. The young man is now forced to provide for himself to survive. How is this young man to honor his father and mother when has been utterly abandoned by them?
We desire our questions of morality to be more black and white than these. We want to be able to have a clear choice: right or wrong. But life is far more complicated and disorganized than that. Most of the issues we are faced with have multiple answers in varying degrees of right and wrong. None of us can have all the right answers. We can only make the choices that speak to our hearts as being the best and most just. Beyond that, we can only pray about those things that fall into that murky, gray area.