I'm susceptible to guilt trips. The more I care about people and issues, the more vulnerable I am. I hear a multitude of voices urging me to do something. It's too much, and I feel badly for failing so many people. The pile-up of guilt becomes a burdensome load to bear … thankfully!
I say "thankfully!" because the distress nudges me back to my Lord for repair. Then, I remember that it's not God Who dispenses all those obligations on me, or on you. It's not God Who pressures our conscience by laying guilt trips. It's people. It's ourselves. When we carry needless loads of guilt, we deprive ourselves of God's grace. Furthermore, in trying to do those "right things" which seem so urgent, we get in God's way. We quench what the Spirit could do for others, including ourselves.
Christ invites you and me to lay our guilt burdens on Him: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [with guilt], and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NIV) This is truly liberating repentance! This is the guilt-free life!
Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther discovered the power of this promise. That sparked the Reformation. Unashamedly, Luther confronted the church for her devilish habit of guilt-tripping. He proclaimed God's freedom from condemnation through grace alone.
Romans 8:1-2 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (NIV 2011)
We again need reformers who, like Luther, will boldly oppose the habit of guilt-tripping God's people, and who will re-affirm the mighty power of divine grace through saving faith. I declare: Today's churches are in real danger of slipping back to pre-Reformation habits! Guilt tripping gets results: donations, volunteers, "correct" language, etc.
But God has a far better plan. Consider the episode where a crippled man begs Peter for a handout. Unapologetically, Peter replies, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6 NIV 2011). God heals that man; he jumps for joy. What a demonstration of God's glory for all to witness! That's the outcome of grace! Isn't that what we want? We'll never get that through guilt-trips — never.
Today, God's grace can still transform people — including those who are loaded down with crippling hurts and offenses. We, like Peter, can unashamedly offer what only God can give.
Prayer: Dear Lord, O what peace we often forfeit; O what needless guilt we bear; all because we do not carry everything to You in prayer. We repent of this sin, and look to You alone for peace and solace of conscience — liberated to be what You've called us to be. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Saviour While My Heart Is Tender" (Lyrics)