Friday, January 9, 2009

Guilt-Driven Christianity

I recently came across an article by Dr. Alvin Reid titled "Saying Goodbye to Guilt-Driven Christianity." I thought it was well done and raised some points that many Christians often think about yet barely discuss. Since I am busy with class I will simply post the article and let you discuss it if you would like. Hope you enjoy...

There is a story told about the time Sir Conan Doyle, the English writer who created the fictional character Sherlock Holmes, decided to play a practical joke on 12 of his best friends. The story goes that he sent all 12 of them a telegram that simply read: “Flee at once … all has been discovered.” Within 24 hours, all 12 had fled to other countries.

Sadly, many—if not most—Christians live with the same guilt. We feel guilty if we stay out too late on Saturday and sleep through church on Sunday morning. We feel guilty if the physical components of our relationships with our girlfriends or boyfriends “go too far.” We feel guilty if we don’t give money to the Church or spend the right amount of time in prayer. Unfortunately, many believers are driven to do these things—pray, tithe, attend church, remain sexually pure—by a rabid sense of duty.

This ought not to be. While these things are good things and goals to be sought after, and while guilt should be a natural reaction to sin from a regenerate heart, the Christian faith should never be driven by a sense of duty, guilt or entitlement. Instead, we should be driven to lives of holiness by passion—passion for God, passion for the lost, passion for the Gospel, passion for each other.

If we move from passion and excitement as motivation to duty and guilt, we lose the great idea of our faith. The great idea of our faith is that the Creator-God has made a way for regular folks like us to know Him. This great idea allows both for eternal life with Him in heaven and purpose in this life. This is an idea of freedom, is it not?

Imagine for a moment that you have no recollection of the life and message of Jesus Christ. And imagine that someone who knows this message well comes to tell you about the Christian faith. They say to you:

Jesus came to earth and died so that you could attend weekly meetings and give Him a slice of your income. You should, therefore, modify your behavior so as to fit in and believe exactly like we tell you to believe and resist getting too excited, for that would be in bad taste. Then you will fulfill your duty and rid yourself of guilt.

Would that be something you would accept? Probably not. Would those sentiments be true to the life and message of Jesus Christ? No, they wouldn’t. And yet that is where many of us find ourselves today.

Now imagine again that you know nothing of the life and message of Jesus Christ, and someone who knows this message well comes to share it with you. Their life is compelling and authentic. Perhaps they don’t fit all the Christian stereotypes, but they are driven by an otherworldly passion and commitment. They say to you:

The reason we don’t do things so well and there exists so much sorrow, death and injustice is that our sin permeates this world. Yet, this great God became like us because of His great love and, amazing as it seems, sacrificed our sin and guilt on the cross. If only we will accept his gift of salvation and surrender to His leadership, God will ignite a new passion inside of you.

Would you be more likely to connect with that message? Probably. Would those sentiments be truer to the life and message of Jesus Christ? Yes, they would. They comprise the great idea of our faith.

A guilt-driven faith will certainly go through the motions. It will drive you to action. But a passion-driven faith forces us to tell everyone we know about the great idea that can change the world. It will drive you to a lifestyle. And we would long for our neighbors, friends and families to embrace this great idea!

The Great Awakenings in the Church have come in no small part because men recaptured a sense of passion rather than guilt. John Wesley, an ordained, Oxford-educated minister, did not become a leader in the Great Awakening until he found an inner passion for Jesus Christ. Once that happened he seemed outlandish to others, and he eventually had to preach in the fields. The same could be said of Whitefield and Edwards, Finney and Spurgeon, Luther and Savonarola. They embraced a passion for the great idea of Christianity.

Our faith is certainly not comprised only of passion. It is also pure, revealed truth. But the truth of our faith is more than mere, propositional fact; it is a great idea that is worthy of infectious passion.

It seems a passionless faith may be one reason so many find our faith unattractive and disingenuous. We must revive the great idea of our great God. We must rediscover the great commission and great commandment. We must pursue a passion-driven Christianity. If our faith is to become a transformative, redemptive power within the culture, we need to flee guilt-driven, duty-centered puppetry and call down a passion for the great idea of the Gospel.


Anonymous said...

I think it's important to let your passion in Christianity be following in Jesus's footsteps. I know sometimes it is hard for me to not feel guilty when I feel as though I am loosing my connect with Him. I think this is what makes Christinity difficult at times. It's not always easy to be Good and God doesn't expect perfection. But he does offer salvation and peace if we accept him into our lives and follow Jesus. I think the lost of guilt will come when will follow The Way - with time.

amybower said...

This is so good to remember. It is so easy to be driven by guilt in the church. Finding passion for Christ is the most important thing, yet why is it not encouraged in the terms listed above. It seems like guilt is a way to provoke emotion into action and that may "work faster" than developing a true intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Edwin said...

I was manipulated during the best years of my life into guilt and fear. I couldn't respond to the girl I loved and I became a freak. People exploited me because I never lied, and always turned the other cheek.

Meanwhile hypocrites and manipulators like you pretended to be more virtuous and pious while guiltlessly committing the very things you wanted me to be guilty about.

Now it is my move. I will destroy this abusive faith once and for all.

Bobby said...

I'm sorry Edwin... do I know you? Apparently I manipulated you in the past according to your comment. Forgive me for robbing you of the opportunity to "respond" to the girl you loved... wow really?

Everyone lies... Christian or not... well... everyone except you apparently in the "best years of your life." This is what happens when you base your view of Christianity on the HUMANS around you... your theology need be based on Christ ... not finite human beings who always let you down.

I am sorry you had a horrible experience while you were a teenager. Apparently some people hurt you pretty bad. However, I am not interested in arguing on this post... have a nice day Edwin.