What people think about church, whether true or not, has a lot to do with whether people want to attend church. When I talk to people who say they believe in God but do not attend church, one of the hurdles for them is their understanding of guilt. When they close their eyes and picture church, they picture guilt. They may envision a pastor pounding a podium and screaming about Hell, maybe constantly going to confession and feeling the guilt of one’s sin. You feel like you never match up or will never be good enough.
Is guilt what church is all about? Should we leave church every week being reminded only of our sin. Should we exit with mud on our faces having been told of our failures, as if we didn’t know what they were in the first place?
The fact is that the Bible does talk about guilt. Guilt is simply feeling the weight of something done wrong against someone else. In relation to God, we are all guilty and have all sinned. Romans 3:23 tells us “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So, guilt is part of what the Bible talks about, but it is only part.
If that’s all people know about church, I wouldn’t want to come either. Who wants to come every week to church to be reminded only of their shortcomings? That would be discouraging. In fact, if a church or Christian acts in that manner, it’s a verbally abusive relationship. So, when people don’t come to church because all they know of church is guilt, as Christians, are we really surprised?
But guilt and sin is only half of the story. Some churches have spent so much time talking about sin, that they have forgot to talk about the grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness of God. To leave these things out is to misrepresent God and Jesus. To only speak of condemnation without redemption is to distort what Jesus taught and the true character of God.
Each week when you attend church you should be taught about sin. Without seeing your sin, you can’t know the freedom from it that God offers. You should also be taught about the forgiveness of God. You should leave, not bearing the weight of guilt if your heart is repentant, but as you confess, you should feel the freedom from your sin. You should feel the forgiveness God has offered and given to you if you confess that sin.
John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).” So, if we have confessed our sins to God and repented, we are free from the guilt of sin before God. If we have trusted in Jesus for salvation, He has paid for our sins. If we have confessed our sins to God and asked for forgiveness, He forgives us. We are no longer guilty, but forgiven.
So, when you think about church, I hope that you will not think about guilt (or only guilt). I hope if you would attend our church, and hear a sermon, that you would think about the forgiveness God offers, the grace He gives to man, and the mercy He places on our lives. If you have avoided church because of the “guilt trip” I hope that you will give us a chance at Cornerstone so that you can hear of the freedom that Jesus gave through bearing our sins and paying for them on the cross. You should feel the rest and freedom found in the cross.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, Pa 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.