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February 21, 2007

Comments

Wow - awesome Paul. In "Searching for God Knows What" Don Miller has some good thoughts on our formulaic gospel presentations saying that, yeah you can find the bullet points in there, but not in a bullet pointed, formulaic, sequential fashion. Your post is refreshing.

I have had a phrase running through my head lately, it's a takeoff on Nabokov's (sp?) "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" translated, "the Unbearable Heaviness of Being Christian." Not that Christianity per se is unbearably heavy, but the Christianity that Christendom has created is unbearably heavy for the exact reason you start your post with - somehow we have turned a faith that is supposed to relieve guilt into one of the most guilt-inducing things imaginable - we don't relieve burdens, we tend to create greater burdens.

Paul:

Thanks for this thoughtful post. Just the other day a friend from England was telling me about how evangelism in Western Europe is centered on the non-believers' shame, not guilt. They are not experiencing guilt, but shame--a near relative to guilt--and the unbelievers are not sure why. Biblical stories about restoration, grace and community are the avenues that seem to connect with the unbelievers' heart there. Not sure if that adds to the conversation here in the U.S., but it seems as they go, we go. Has anyone else heard something similar?

Guilt gets an unfairly bad rap. Frankly, I'm much more worried about people who are incapable of feeling guilt than about those who sweat the (seemingly) small stuff.

What is guilt except the realization and recognition that you're not as good as you should be? And if you're not as good as you should be, SHOULDN'T that bother you?

As the cliche goes, pain is nature's way of telling you something's wrong. Guilt is a just sort of pain that's supposed to let you know something is wrong.

Of course, pain and guilt are only useful to the extent that they spur you to take action. If you put your hand on a hot stove, pain is what tells you to get it off, fast! And if you're living a sinful life, guilt is what lets you know that you've got to put and end to that. You're not supposed to leave your hand on the stove and weep about how foolish you were to touch a hot stove, and how you DESERVE to burn! And you're not supposed to go on sinning while telling yourself constantly what an awful person you are.

To use a crude analogy, if you look at yourself in the mirror, and see that you've gained a lot of weight, you SHOULD feel bad about it. But what matters is, what do your negative feelings lead to? There are three choices:

1) Cry about how fat your are, and drown your sorrows in a big bowl of ice cream.

2) Declare "I love myself just the way I am, and I think I'll be beautiful even if I weigh a ton."

3) Resolve to eat better and start exercising more.

Option 1 reflects unhealthy guilt. Option 2 reflects an unhealthy LACK of guilt. Option 3 is where guilt is SUPPOSED to lead us.

Guilt is not en end in itself, but it's an essential means to an end.

Could it also be that we're like Paul in that we don't do what is good and continue to do what is evil? Toss in the "You Christians always act so holy... rant moan blah" that we get from all corners and watch the guilt meter spin round and round. I don't need (but will anyway) to mention the headlines everytime a Christian leader does something stupid adds to this as well.

"1) Cry about how fat your are, and drown your sorrows in a big bowl of ice cream.

2) Declare "I love myself just the way I am, and I think I'll be beautiful even if I weigh a ton."

3) Resolve to eat better and start exercising more.

Option 1 reflects unhealthy guilt. Option 2 reflects an unhealthy LACK of guilt. Option 3 is where guilt is SUPPOSED to lead us."

I think I'm with you on #1 and #2, but where is the gospel in #3? Maybe I'm just pushing the analogy too far, but it seems to me that while resolving to try harder may cause you to lose weight, there's nothing particularly Christian about the approach.

Regarding the original post, I would hope that we'd all agree that awareness of sin, repentance, faith (among others) would all be present in the Christian life. But it also makes a lot of sense that guilt may not be the only "entry" point to the gospel. Go back a couple generations to a generally moral society in this country, and you could easily call people to repentance. But now? Maybe guilt isn't the most pressing issue for people, and we ought to recognize that if we hope to reach people. To do so doesn't necessitate turning over the apple cart; maybe just rearranging some of the apples.

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