Overview, Goals and Assumptions
Download a PDF of Black and White and Shades of Gray to use as a Bible study series or at a retreat.
- Because we desire the simplicity of being able to view life’s issues as black and white, shades of gray make us uncomfortable and create tension for us. But God is faithful. He remains with His people–loving, forgiving and empowering us in the attitudes we form and the decisions we make.
- Teenagers are moving from their childhood to adulthood–from a time when most things are black or white, yes or no, with very few gray areas, to a time when few things seem to be clearly black or white and most all issues seem to have shades of gray.
Teenagers, in their attempt to become independent thinkers, may trade old black and white beliefs (at least for a while) rather than accept and work through shades of gray (e.g. Mom and Dad who were the smartest parents on earth become, in the minds of teenagers, the dumbest parents on earth, rather than smart people who often show they don’t know everything).
Adolescents typically question ideas learned in childhood as part of the search for their own individual identities. Many adults become concerned at these expressions of doubt, wondering if their young people are falling away from the true faith. However, by the working of the Holy Spirit, adolescents’ doubts and searchings can lead them to a stronger faith and a deeper understanding and appreciation of who they are in Christ.
- Christian youth leaders and counselors need to be careful that in their attempt to emphasize the black and white nature of God’s Holy Word, they don’t go beyond the direction and comfort He clearly gives us.
- It may be appropriate and necessary for teenagers to hold gray positions that we “older and wiser” adults know to be black and white, for the sake of their own growth and development. It may be more helpful for teenagers to claim their own black and white areas rather than having adults insist on them.
- In order to challenge the religious leaders of His day, Jesus told stories (parables) that forced those leaders to take another look at issues they saw as clearly black and white. Jesus’ famous “You have heard that it was said… but I tell you…” statements from Matthew 5 do the same thing.
By God’s grace, the four sessions of this retreat will help teenagers to:
recognize that the teenage years are important years for questioning and developing personal values;
- acknowledge that listening to a variety of positions helps clarify personal positions;
- demonstrate an understanding that people do not always have to view things the same way and that God can and does use differences of opinion to help all of His people grow in the Christian faith;
- affirm God’s freely-given, undeserved love and forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a black and white issue;
- explore issues and areas in their lives that may once have been black or white, but now seem to have a lot of gray, and begin to understand why that happens;
- investigate a number of specific issues that cause teenagers to struggle;
- recognize that not being sure may be the best alternative for the moment, and that to change one’s mind is okay;
- explore Holy Scripture in order to discover how Jesus used shades of gray to help people grow in their faith.
- To expect teenagers to come away from this retreat with more clearly defined black and white areas in their lives would run counter to the purpose of this retreat. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is clear (black and white). He came to save us from sin and to give us life. He never leaves us. He often works in gray areas of our lives and by the Spirit’s power leads us to depend on Him rather than on ourselves.