I grew up in Louisiana and lived in the southern part of the state for a number of years as an adult. I love the rich heritage, delicious cuisine and strikingly beautiful sunsets.
In Louisiana, Mardi Gras is an official state holiday. Public schools, universities and even employers often provide a three-day vacation to celebrate.
As an adult, I was both dismayed and puzzled as I watched Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” grow in popularity. New Orleans is perhaps successful in stealing the title of “Sin City” from Las Vegas for a short time each year with its outrageous displays of debauchery. (This year, Fat Tuesday was February 17. Fat Tuesday marks the end of the Carnival season which starts January 6 each year and always culminates the day before Ash Wednesday.)
Mardi Gras has its roots in the Christian calendar as a final farewell to the flesh before Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and devotion to God before Easter. Why would someone want to act out such blatantly sinful desires if they were devoted to Christ at all? What a baffling clash of claims and behaviors.
I thought about that several times over the weekend as Fifty Shades of Grey was hitting the big screen. And I thought about a similar discrepancy.
First, let me confess something. Until just a few weeks ago, I thought Fifty Shades of Grey was a TV show. And I learned just days ago about the series of best-selling books based on BDSM. And here’s another confession; I had to ask someone what BDSM stood for. So, I’m a bit out of the loop – a little naïve. I admit it. But here’s the thing. What’s wrong with that?
“Embarrassing” would be an inadequate word to describe the teasing I experienced when I was an early teen. I remember the hot, sudden rush of blood into my face and ears when kids on the bus made fun of me for not knowing what certain words meant, for not getting their jokes or sexual innuendos.
In today’s landscape, Christians often believe it’s important to be relevant in society. But is it really more about curiosity? And how much of our curiosity is really due to peer pressure? Do I really need to know about every ungodly facet of culture to fight the evil forces driving it? Where are the lines? Is there really a grey area?
When I think of the biblical text, only two “colors” come to mind: darkness and light. I don’t recall reading anything about shades of grey.
As Christians, we receive practical instruction in Ephesians 5:6-11.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.
Perhaps each of us should honestly ask ourselves what it means to participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness. Does one need to be on Bourbon Street in New Orleans outwardly sowing wild oats to be considered a participant? What if I’m curled up in a cozy chair in my living room reading through the pages of a wildly popular pornographic book secretly ordered online?
What I do know is this:
1) We are tempted and enticed by our own lusts.
2) There is hope; it’s called repentance.
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:5-9).