Guilt is a quiet killer in the Christian community. I use to think why do people struggle so much with guilt when they have Christ as their savior, who not only died for sins, but also their guilt? Then I became involved in something that took a great number of hours a week to accomplish and I suddenly didn’t have the time like I use to have for study and prayer.
Now, I understand perfectly well, that I am not saved by Bible study, prayer, church going or attending a Bible study group, but “oh the guilt.”
Legalism teaches that you earn merit with God through your good works, efforts and devotion to God. I have been a strong proponent against such teaching my entire Christian life. However, while out on a walk with Ruth this morning I suddenly realized that my guilt at not spending more time with Jesus is another form of legalism.
Somehow, in my brain I began thinking that if I didn’t spend as much time with God as I wanted I was letting God down and bringing His disapproval upon me. I know better than that, but it is easy to drift into that thinking when you are swamped.
As a pastor I use to wonder why people couldn’t always get out to prayer meeting or Bible studies. I forgot that going to Bible studies, prayer meetings and church were my job. In the city that I lived in many of the people who attended our church worked in Toronto and it took them a good hour to drive home after work. When they got home they had to woof down some food, kiss the children goodnight and then run out the door for a board meeting or a church function. If I knew then what I know now I would have cancelled every church function during the week and encouraged the people to stay home with their families.
The church structure has encouraged guilt in us. We are taught from the cradle upward that we must participate in all activities of the church if we are good Christians. If we don’t participate, then by inference we are not good Christians. But the reality is that many of us would love to spend more time in church and Bible Study and prayer, but we live in a real world where work, family commitments and rest are all necessities.
Pastors, give your members encouragement when they aren’t involved in everything the church does. Don’t lay guilt upon them, but let them know you understand the pressures on them and help them find a way they can stay connected and also find the rest and peace they need from a busy week of work. And, you church members don’t think your salvation depends upon your being involved in every meeting or activity your church holds. Be selective choose the things that are important to you and your family and make those the priority.
I know someone is thinking right now if people stop coming to things then the church will fail in its mission. No, the church has to stop being a busy place and began to have a mission. The mission starts in the home with the family. We need to spend more time with our families and less time being busy.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating that you never go to church or Bible study groups. What I am saying is choose wisely what you are going to do and what night you are going to dedicate to church functions. Every Christian, I think, should be involved in something that renews their faith and strengthens them for mission, but we don’t need to attend five studies a week.
The Christian church has done a good job of making us feel guilty, not intentionally I hope, and that guilt drives us into legalism. We think that if we don’t spend every waking moment in some form of devotion we have failed and God will punish us for such failures. Listen, God understands the heart and He knows your life and He works with the raw material that is you. He doesn’t expect the same attitudes or responses from each of us as if we were cookie cutter creations.
The wonder of the Gospel is that God knows the heart and He loves us in spite of our hearts. The Gospel is to a great degree learning to trust in God who loves you unconditionally. It is learning to be content with your devotion and love for Him and not being manipulated by outside influences. It is learning to say no to what is more than you can bear and saying yes enthusiastically to what you know is good for you.
Yes, life gets busy from time to time and it gets in the way of things. However, other times come along when we have more time and freedom and then we take advantage of those lulls to build stronger relationships with God.
These are just my thoughts and I could be way off base. I am curious to hear your thoughts on this topic of guilt, work, and church. How do you resolve the dilemma? Please send your views to the comment section at the end of this post.
* Many people around the globe are experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death. They need our support and continuous prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet but you have to search for it