Black and White Thinking

Black and White Thinking

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:10

I’m prone to black and white thinking. It’s simply my nature and to think otherwise often requires a conscious effort. For example, in addiction medicine, I’ll often give a patient very specific instructions. When he (or she) returns the following week and hasn’t followed my directions at all, I want to throw my hands up in futility. I’m done with you. You obviously don’t want my help. I’m not going to waste any further time or effort with you. He does want help though. His life problem is not following instructions. So, I must patiently try and try again. Often, it takes several efforts to get there. In my black and white thinking, I want to give up after one failure.

I unhelpfully applied my black and white thinking to my own addiction and faith struggles. I knew I had a drug problem, and I believed God was the solution. I knew I was powerless on my own and that I couldn’t save myself, so I assumed the exact opposite must be true – God must do it all. I prayed, asked for recovery, and then sat back and refused to do anything. I can’t do it. God must do it all. He asked me to obey, confess, and get help. Nope. I can’t do it. You do it. My black and white thinking once again, was terribly unhelpful.

Today’s passage addresses a subject where black and white thinking has caused centuries of conflict within Christianity. You may or may not be aware, but Christians have fought, and denominations have split over this question – Does God pick who is saved or do we have a choice? There are parts of the Bible that seem to support both views. There are passages that clearly state that God chooses who goes to heaven. Then, there are passages that teach we’re responsible to make a choice. If you pick one side, you must explain away all the other passages.

Our logical, linear, western minds struggle with this. It must be black or white. It must be one or the other. God must pick or we must pick. Today’s passage though, balances both ideas in the same sentence. Peter acknowledged that God chooses – we’re elected – but he also said that we also must choose to live a certain way, confirming that reality. If we follow God, we won’t fall. If we refuse, we will fall. Does God do it or are we responsible? Yes. It’s not black or white. It’s both. This isn’t easy for our minds, but it is reality.

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