Good, now that that’s out of your system, let’s continue…
One of the greatest misconceptions I think all people of faith have is that they’re not doing a “good enough” job in keeping their faith pure. This is one of the primary attacks against Christianity by non-believers; that the church is essentially peddling guilt as a kind of emotional blackmail to get people to do what we want. As much as I hate to admit it, I think this assessment is not totally unfair. While those within the church who actively seek to promote feelings of guilt are few in number, their evil has far-reaching consequences for those of us who try to bridge the gap between the church and the unbelieving world. We as Christians are often forced to answer for the crimes of those either in the present age or in ages long past who have perpetrated evil, manipulative schemes in the name of God. This, frankly, needs to stop. Just like you can’t categorically condemn and harass all German-born citizens for the crimes of Nazism, so too the majority of Christians are innocent of the kind of self-serving manipulation of faith that has earned us all a bad reputation in the eyes of the “forward-thinking” world.
What outsiders fail to understand is that being transformed by the grace of Christ is both a one-time deal and an ongoing process. When we come to faith in Christ, our righteousness is sealed for all eternity (Ephesians 4:30). We are now able to access God’s grace at any time and can fully expect to receive forgiveness for our sins simply by asking God (Read Hebrews 10). We are, however, still living in sinful bodies in a fallen and broken world. That is why Paul laments in Romans 7 about how he wants so badly to do what is right, and yet still finds himself constantly slipping back into sin. We must all remember that the process of Salvation happens instantaneously when we come to faith in Christ (Acts 16:31), but the process of Sanctification, or being made more Christ-like, lasts a lifetime.
Guilt is the result of our actions failing to line up with what we know to be right. This emotion does not need to be taught by anyone, it is as natural as the pain you feel when stubbing your toe. What we have to remember, however, is that it’s not our job to “punish” ourselves for the sins we commit, because that punishment was already served on the cross. To try and serve some kind of penance for your own sins is tantamount to saying to Christ, “What you did on the cross was not enough. I have to take matters into my own hands to ensure that this sin is forgiven.”
Like gravity, guilt is a force of nature. It will always be there to pull us down and make us feel inadequate after a blunder. What we must all remember is that our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the ability to take those sins before a holy and perfect God and have them expunged in an instant (Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:15-17, 1 John 1:9), in essence defying the downward pull of our guilt.
The next time you screw up (because you will), remember that Jesus has already paid the price for that sin, and that your trust in Jesus Christ alone is enough to secure your right standing with God. It’s time to stop feeling weighed down by the sins of your past, and start defying gravity!