When Morality’s White is Just a Pale Grey

Any human rights activist would be left gasping for air after reading the Book of Judges. All the murder, gang rape, mass abduction and mutilation give the impression that the moral compass is not spinning, it isn’t even there! The wartime practices described therein flagrantly flout the Geneva Convention but they don’t exceed the horror of the peacetime atrocities. Where is God in this book? Is He on leave or is He taking industrial action?

I guess having been fed a steady diet of detective series and action movies in which the good guys are always flawless and the villains unabashedly villainous, we’ve come to expect the same from the Bible. It is, after all, meant to be “the Good Book”. Yet books like Judges force us to confront those expectations by reminding us that humans are human after all. The best among us is isn’t flawless but willing to rise above the flaws.

God isn’t absent. Every now and then, the “Angel of the Lord” appears and speaks to flawed humanity, reminding us never to fear because the Lord is with us (Judges 6:12, 23). God practices situational ethics in that He takes note of our circumstances when He weighs us; nobody is expected to conform to what they don’t know. Gideon, for example, was a young man who’d grown up in an idolatrous family, therefore, it is understandable that he would gradually forsake idolatry because it takes great courage and enormous effort to walk away from what you’ve always known.

When a human being, though frail with sin, turns to Him and reaches out to Him in the limit of their knowledge, He never turns away. He is never stiff with His wayward children but choking back His disgust at sin, reaches them where they are to lift them to where He is. In short, if I were to paint a picture of God in the Book of Judges, I would paint Him gritting His teeth as He strains to pull His children from the abyss.

In this book, I see God unshaken in His resolve to achieve His objective (a community to reach the world for Him) while upholding human freedom. Each of us is deeply flawed and the devil stands to accuse us (Zechariah 3:1; Revelation 12:10) and the God who stands for us but nobody who is yearning for God ever stands alone. As long as we would have it, God’s presence is always with us because Christianity is not an event but a process; it is not a position but a journey that we walk (though we stumble and fall) with God.

“There are those who have known the pardoning love of Christ and who really desire to be children of God, yet they realize that their character is imperfect, their life faulty, and they are ready to doubt whether their hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. To such I would say, Do not draw back in despair. We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Said the beloved John, “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1. And do not forget the words of Christ, “The Father Himself loveth you.” John 16:27. He desires to restore you to Himself, to see His own purity and holiness reflected in you. And if you will but yield yourself to Him, He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it forward to the day of Jesus Christ. Pray more fervently; believe more fully. As we come to distrust our own power, let us trust the power of our Redeemer, and we shall praise Him who is the health of our countenance.”  {Ellen White, Steps to Christ p64}

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