The Gray Areas
They aren’t as inconsequential as they may seem.

At an Ambassador College assembly in the early ’80s, one of the instructors told the gathering of students and faculty about a trip he had taken to Thailand with a dozen students from the college.

These students were going to spend some months in Thailand teaching Indochinese refugees. At the beginning of their Thai experience, this instructor took the students to the Mekong River, which was the border between Thailand and Communist Laos. At the time, communist soldiers in Laos had already shot Thai fishermen and others while in their boats on the Mekong.

The instructor relayed to the gathered assembly that he had told the students, “Over here is Thailand. The land on the other side of the river is Laos. The river, … the river is a gray area. Stay out of the gray area.”

The border between Laos and Thailand was somewhere in the Mekong River, but it was not clearly defined.

Certainly this gray area of the border between these two countries made it somewhat uncomfortable for the citizens of Thailand to get in or on the water. Since this border was not specifically defined, they would be taking their lives into their own hands once in the water; they were taking a chance on communist soldiers deciding to shoot at them. It was dangerous to enter this particular gray area.

Unfortunately, however, not all gray areas frighten us. Some gray areas are ones we actually desire; many times, we feel the need to enter into them. We are glad they exist. We consider them freedom to do as we wish. We think we can use them to our advantage.

Even though that may be how we reason and feel at times, the advice is still sound and always will be—stay out of the gray areas.

When we are young, we are more selfishly motivated than later in life when we have accumulated responsibilities. In our selfish state, we tend to look out for ourselves primarily and show little concern for others. Sometimes if we are playing a game with our siblings or friends, or we are receiving instruction from our teachers and/or parents, we notice that the instruction or rules were not totally, clearly defined—that there is a gray area. If we can determine that it will be to our advantage, we deliberately ease ourselves into the gray area. We look at these gray areas as liberty and an advantage to ourselves. We can get in the habit of looking for gray areas in all aspects of our lives. If this were wrong, it would be expressly forbidden by the rules or the instructions, we want to assume.

Your parents might say, “We don’t want you riding in a car with that group of kids.” Well, you might think, they did not say I could not ride with just one of the group.

It is a gray area to you; the rule was not specific about riding with just one of the members of the group. And you know it will be fun, giving you a feeling of freedom, and besides, it’s convenient.

Perhaps the ride ended without incident, making it seem like it’s not important, but truly it is important. Your decision was based on how the ride impacted you and you alone. You are developing an attitude that is willing to compromise to serve your own interests.

Maybe you are only moving into the gray area to take advantage of a sibling during a board game, or to get a head start for a race at a Church picnic, or simply getting out of part of your much-dreaded homework.

Maybe the tendency you have, as a youth, to use the gray areas to your personal advantage seems inconsequential to you. But is it?

If you consider this, you may see that you are developing a habit that will undermine you—one that could eventually destroy you. You need to recognize that you are developing an attitude of mind that will not serve you well. Our own hearts—our minds—will deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9).

Developing a mindset that anything not expressly and distinctly forbidden by man’s law or God’s law is acceptable will eventually result in pain and agony for you. Yes, your own heart has deceived you! Its guidance does not bring you good results.

Even though a rule or guideline might not be explicitly or absolutely detailed, that does not imply that something done in its gray area will bring pleasant results. Every action a man makes cannot be itemized in his civic laws. Nor does God itemize or detail every possible acceptable or unacceptable deed.

In God’s laws, a principle must be applied. As Mr. Armstrong wrote: “Above everything else, the law of God is a matter of attitude of mind!”

Whether we are dealing with the laws of the land or God’s law of love, our attitude has to be one of love toward our neighbor and love toward God.

Those areas not clearly defined might be okay, but we should check our attitudes and ask, “Am I doing this for love of others, for love of God, or am I doing this just to please myself?” If we answer that honestly, we should be able to determine our attitude of mind. Will this action—not strictly prohibited by law—result in something outgoing and loving for all involved, or will it just make me feel good? The attitude of mind should be: Does this action, though not expressly forbidden, show outgoing love—or does the end result only benefit me?

Satan wants those God is working with—both young and old—to use the scientific method. He wants us to observe, to experiment, and to use human reasoning to decide if something is good for us. Is it good for the self?

If God has not expressly forbidden something in His Word, that doesn’t mean He approves of it. Many want to get too close to the world’s way of doing things. They excuse themselves by saying, “Well, it’s kind of a gray area, and I’m rather enjoying the experience.” This will never produce good results.

God’s principles of love are black and white. They are not exhaustive, but they are pristinely clear. They are not gray, not muddled. Satan’s influence, his broadcasts, are what pales the black and shades the white. His influence makes the gray areas appealing. His influence is what gets us excited about moving into the gray area.

God desires that all be in His Family. He has given us all this tremendous opportunity right now to develop His character. Learn His principles of love, of outgoing concern. If you are still a youth, start applying them in your life today. Don’t look for the loopholes in your parents’ admonitions and instructions. If something is not clearly defined and you feel there will be no harm to enter into it, then ask for clarity: “I won’t ride in the car with the group, but can I ride with just one of the group?” As a youth, giving your parents, teachers and siblings the opportunity to clear up a gray area is an outgoing, loving thing to do. Don’t try to get as close to the world as you can. The world’s way is not God’s way. To truly live—stay out of the gray areas.