Still, I googled, “What is the meaning of the title “Fifty Shades of Grey?” The answer was that the assumption is that there is no such thing as black and white, perhaps especially I suppose in sexual matters. Rather, there are simply “shades of grey.”
Of course, scarcely anyone really lives as though there is nothing “white” or “black;” or let’s say no absolute Light or Darkness. Let’s not start with sexual matters, however, though certainly we should not leave such an important area out.
But here are some instances of where I’m pretty sure there is Light and there is Darkness:
- What about whether little girls should be trafficked as sex slaves or little boys sold as child soldiers?
- What about whether the practice of female genital mutilation should be practiced or countenanced?
- What about whether women are fully and equally human and should therefore use their gifts however they may?
- What about whether pedophiles should be free to express themselves, so long as their “partners” consent?
- What about whether some people in the world should starve while others routinely throw excess food away?
- What about whether 25,000 children should be allowed to die each day because no basic medical care is available?
- What about whether people should be limited in opportunity based on where they were born or from what heritage they come?
- What about whether one people group should seek to annihilate another, ever?
- What about whether unending vengeance and revenge ever really leads to human wellbeing, never mind flourishing?
- What about whether bullying can be justified (whether among children or among nations)?
The list goes on–the list of instances where most everyone agrees there is Light and there is darkness, most everyone knows which is which, and most everyone understands the wisdom and prudence, even necessity, of embracing Light. Most everyone does.
I am reflecting on this fact. That most of us readily acknowledge clear cases of Light vs. darkness, and at some level know it best to embrace Light. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every situation is like this. It doesn’t even mean that most situations are like this. Likewise, to say that most everyone would acknowledge these clearly exist–Light and dark, at least with respect to some matters, does not mean that most would know how to tell which is which consistently. Nor does it mean you could assume that most people would choose Light over dark even they knew which was which. Indeed, there is much to debate and discern about what is Light and what is dark–or, what is right and wrong, wise and foolish, and beneficial and harmful. And, you would find it difficult to know whether any one person’s choices are likely to embrace the Light.
Still, however, this fact–that most acknowledge Light and dark clearly exist–strongly implies that the assumption behind the book and movie title is wrong. Reality and how to deal with it, and how to live our lives, requires more than selecting among the various shades of grey, according to whatever factors or criteria appeal to us or captivate us most. If there is Light and if it is wise to embrace it, how do we know with confidence this or that is Light so that we may embrace it and live accordingly? Of course, every philosophy, religion and spirituality offers answers and criteria for answering this question.
Every faith, thought and life system does except the one espoused by followers of Jesus. Followers of Jesus offer a person who, they claim, embodies Light. Followers of Jesus suggest and show Jesus as the one who is the Light. Sometimes they try to present the case for this, and sometimes that is the most appropriate thing to do. Some of the time this is helpful, but usually only for those who already believe and who need to be strengthened in their belief. For many people, though, who wouldn’t argue that Light and darkness exist or even that it would be good to embrace Light, arguments in themselves rarely work.
What (or Who) does work is Jesus. In the Jesus story of old, Jesus interacted with people and called them to come along with him and then to see what happens, to sense the way Jesus is walking, to hear what Jesus says and how he says it, and consider whether it is interesting, whether they feel a pull toward Jesus and his way. Often people did, and they came to recognize Light and embrace it. Not all but many.
What works is Jesus. In the Jesus story today, Jesus still calls, interacts, and welcomes any who will come along for a while to see for themselves what it’s like or what he and his way are like. Today, no less than of old, people who do come along consistently come to places where they see Light in Jesus and his way and they embrace that Light by continuing to follow. Not all but many.
What works is Jesus–that is the claim of his followers today as they interact with others, when they themselves are following most faithfully and fully. In a world that likes often assumes that Light and darkness do not exist, and everyone must simply choose between various shades of grey, followers of Jesus will point to the Jesus they follow, the Person who claims to be Light and invite any who’d like to come along to see for themselves. Followers of Jesus do this, knowing full well that the common assumptions are a lie and that Jesus knows how to bring people from darkness to Light.
Coming back to sex now. If in general Light and darkness exist, and many people know it deep down. If Light is better than darkness. And, if all of us need help to recognize Light and embrace it. Why wouldn’t these things be true in matters of sex and intimacy? On what basis would we contend that in matters of sex there are only various shades subject to private selection? Probably though it will not be helpful to argue much about it. But we should raise such questions: Why would we think that something so important as sex, so often fraught with enormous pain and tragedy, is simply a matter of choosing a shade that suits one best?
Followers of Jesus rightly and humbly raise such questions, but most of all point to the Person they claim is Light and offers Light. Then, after pointing, they simply invite any who will to do what they have done—to come along and see for themselves. Followers invite them in confidence that Jesus brings the Light they and all need.