Christian Guilt

Yesterday my wife and I both read an article that set our blood to boiling. On one hand, I began to wonder about why we actually subject ourselves to such drivel (yeah, why do you read my rantings?), on the other, I started to think about what he was saying and realized he and I had more to feel guilty about than those he was trying to call out. I thought a lot about this notion of guilt.  I thought about healthy, and unhealthy guilt. I thought about what really separates the two, and that put me in the writing mood…

I remember as a young person I would attend a school, church, and even camps that told me I was a sinner. They told me that I should feel bad because I was. In essence, I was asked to understand a heavy burden that I was to bear. I’m not sure they precisely meant it in that way, but that’s the way my small brain took it. They told me that God loved me so much that God came to relieve me from that burden. To be honest, that is part of the Gospel message, but it isn’t everything about the gospel. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that what they did was bad. I’m saying that it probably isn’t the best thing to be telling children about the Gospel message. OK bear with me…. My point is that I think it is a manufactured guilt that many Christians give to children to help them understand the Gospel. Yes, every child has lied. Yes, every child has done something to upset their parents. But I am not sure that every child has had the life experience to really understand the burdensome and overwhelming guilt that God took off of humanity and placed on Godself. I think we as Christians tend to exaggerate “facts” to try to carry our agenda. I probably have just done so in this paragraph! I think this is a major problem that is rearing its ugly head in the church today.

I feel as though we cradle Christians have grown into this idea that every little thing we do wrong is horrible. I think we get so focused on these little things that we miss the larger, the much more important wrong things that are going on around us. It, in essence, has turned us all into extreme naval gazers (Up next on MBC the new hit reality show “EXTREME NAVAL GAZERS!”). I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel bad for lying, or overindulging or what have you. I’m saying that we get so focused on trying not to do these little things we miss the: gossip run rampant in our hearts and minds, the mistreatment of people around us, and injustices we face every day but are too consumed with self to notice.

Now on to manufactured guilt. It’s used every day as a manipulation tool. For instance, that ASPCA commercial with Sarah Mclachlan gets me every time! They show those poor abused animals and I just want to adopt them all! That is manufactured guilt. I didn’t abuse those animals, but I want to do something to help them. Yes, I may have done something that led to an animal being abused, but how am I to know? It’s effective as an advertising method. Many many people, companies, and even charities use it. I’m not sure if it’s right or wrong, but it’s used every single day. The one thing I’m sure of is that it should not be used to advertise God and God’s message.

God came to tell us that we have been set free. That we no longer have to live under rigid oppression of old testament law. We are under a new covenant. Does that mean we should go on sinning? NO! It means that we should try to better ourselves BECAUSE WE WANT TO! Not because we have to. I have found that still to this day many people are forcing this on children, as if God were this cosmic Santa Claus that is making sure you are good so that you get the big present at the end. No! I believe the Gospel is this God came to set us free from the burden of being perfect, instead God already sees us as perfect. The burden of perfection is not on us. We should strive to be better. We should not let guilt drive us, but rather it should be desire that drives us.

Now that is saying a lot of bad about guilt, but there is still healthy guilt. There is the guilt that reminds you that what you did or what you observed was not a part of God’s ultimate plan for creation. I think that’s different. That is part of that desire to be better. As Paul put it in the book of Romans, all things in creation are in exodus to the perfection that God has for them. Everything is striving to be better. It’s our job to help each other to be better. That’s why we have that healthy guilt. It shows us that something needs our help or attention to be better. For instance, the article we read yesterday. It boiled our blood because it stated that an injustice was correct because the Bible said it should be that way. We feel a healthy guilt that tells us that this certain injustice is not correct. That all things are striving to be better, including the people group that this person was trying to call out, and the Bible says no such thing. So if you have that pang of guilt examine that feeling. See whether or not it’s healthy. Determine if you should be doing something to help some other part of creation along in its exodus toward perfection.

Anyway, that’s just what I think. What do you think?

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