TONY ELDER: If God calls it a sin, then we'd best believe it

One of our daughters teaches second-graders at a Christian school. During a recent class session, they were discussing a combination of nutrition and creation. They talked about how God made good foods for us to eat.

The class delved into such subjects as the benefits of natural sugars versus the processed sweeteners man has made and often adds to the items he eats. Of course, they also discussed the principle of moderation when it comes to eating all kinds of food.

At one point, the textbook showed a picture of a variety of fruits on one page and a picture of a bowl of ice cream on the opposite page. My daughter noted how God had made the fruit with its natural nutrients that are good for us. Then she proceeded to point to the other image and ask, "And who made the ice cream?"

She called upon one boy whose arm had quickly shot up in the air. That student enthusiastically answered, "Satan!"

My daughter was amused by that unexpected answer, although she could imagine her students returning home that day reporting to their parents that the teacher had declared ice cream to be the devil's creation. So she quickly explained that it was manmade, which she discovered was the answer most of the other students had been ready to give.

As for me, being the ice cream lover which I am, I am rather appalled at the thought of attributing that treat to the devil.

However, I do admire the first student's response as revealing his young and still-developing understanding that some things are clearly defined as being either good or evil. If fruit is good, God must have made it. If ice cream isn't so good for us, then Satan must have been its creator.

I'm afraid that too many people are losing any sense of a clear demarcation between right and wrong. Everything is viewed as relative. What may be right in one situation might be considered wrong in another. What may be good for one person might be evil for someone else.

So-called "black and white" issues are becoming harder and harder to pinpoint in the eyes of a vast portion of our society. Fewer people are willing to label anything as absolutely right or as absolutely wrong. They especially avoid calling anything a sin.

On the other hand, as that second-grader gets older, he will no doubt discover that there are also gray areas in life, matters in which the boundaries between right and wrong, good and evil, are not so plainly drawn. While there are things that can be clearly labeled as one or the other, as being from God or being from Satan, there are other things in which what's right and wrong is not so easily discerned.

Therefore, we also have to be careful not to dogmatically declare things to be good or evil, which may fit more in the gray areas of personal conviction and individual preferences.

So how do we discern the difference between the black and white, and the gray areas? I believe we have to look to God's Word as our primary guide. We must accept its declarations as truth, regardless of our feelings about the matter and regardless of what society currently deems to be acceptable.

If God says something is sin, we had best believe it. If He doesn't, then we ought to be very careful about making that judgment on our own.

Now, if you don't mind, I think this preacher is going to saunter into the kitchen to get a little bowl of that stuff the devil supposedly made, although it sure tastes heavenly to me.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.