The second indictment of our requiem is, “Where the church struggles with sin and shame, God redeems through forgiveness and love.”
The other day I came across a prominent evangelical website. I couldn’t pull myself away. I kept reading article after article – many promoting different ways that the world is so sinful. The articles were focused solely on certain public figures, celebrities, politicians, actors, and athletes, and how they had done something horribly wrong and how we should do better. Then they would focus on how other famous people have turned toward God and away from their sin. If these people have come over to their side then they were going to highlight them, to idolize their transition. My past came rushing toward me. This is the world I grew up in. Everyone was focused on how the rest of the world, except for our community, was on their way to hell. We became students of everything there was to know about everyone else’s sinfulness and then we sensationalized it. From a psychological perspective it is like saying, “Don’t eat the carrots.” and then hanging carrots in every doorway, window, and over one’s bed – just within reach.
In much of that culture, there is an obsession with sin: an obsession to know all about it AND an obsession to refrain from ever participating in it.
The inherent struggle created by virtue of that dichotomy is quite significant. I remember living in that reality. It was a constant struggle because you’re constantly reminded about all the people doing all these “horrible things” but then you’re told not to do them.
A better approach might be to focus on forgiveness and love instead of sinfulness and shame.
As a student at Bob Jones University I constantly felt beat over the head with a spiritual bat – and the bat was shame. We were taught that we are all sinful, we are all going down the wrong path, the world is behaving very badly (many specific examples followed), and if you don’t repent and stay on the “right” path (feeling horrible about yourself along the way), then you will go straight to hell with the rest of them.
It seems to me that when we look at the teachings of Jesus, though he certainly talks about sinfulness, he focuses on mercy, grace, and forgiveness. On a very personal level his relationships with the people around him were all about forgiveness and love.
It’s not that we should ignore or excuse sinfulness but how much better is it to follow in the way of Jesus and to focus on forgiveness and love. If we take a global look at the life and teachings of Jesus – his ministry and his followers – the only people that he really brought down and condemned as sinful and shameful were the religious leaders of the day that were imposing their laws and rules on everyone else. They were trying to control the masses through their religiosity.
...Something to think about.