“The early Christian church symbolized the Resurrection, healings, and miracles because the church thought those things were central. The reason the first and closest friends of Jesus focused on miracles, healings, and hopeful aspects of the faith such as the Ascension and the Resurrection was simply that those are what God himself wants us to focus on. Those are the point. Those make Christianity such very good news. A dead man is not a great deal of help to us; a dead God is even worse. But life, real life, the power of God to restore you…now that’s a whole other matter. We say Christ died for us, and that is true. But Christ was also raised for us. His resurrection was as much for us as His death was.” - Waking the Dead, Chapter 4
I grew up in the church and I am well-acquainted with guilt. Very well-acquainted. It is probably more accurate to say I eat, sleep and breathe guilt. In fact, I have what psychologists would call, “free-floating guilt,” meaning that it is rootless and ever present. It lurks, never too far from the forefront of my mind, looking for a situation to attach itself to. And if none are available, it has some good stand-bys ready for replay.
Now, my situation may be an extreme (although naming it provides a healthier distance), but I have many other friends who grew up in the church like me, that walk through life with a vague cloud of guilt hanging over their heads. It was an easy message to buy into – that we have an evil heart. After all, if we have a sin nature, and we need no additional evidence of that, it clearly follows that we are desperately corrupt. So we buy into that, hook, line and sinker.
And yet, I’ve had friends in my life ask me, “Why do you worry so much? Why do you feel so guilty? Why don’t you act more….forgiven?” It is a fair question. If I want others to know about this wonderful freedom that comes with giving your heart to Christ, why am I still shackled with chains of guilt and regret?
In fact, how is it that we call ourselves holy and set apart, but with an unfixable treacherous heart at the same time. Well…..are we transformed or not? Did Christ pay the ransom for all sins or not? Does it even make sense that God would continually convict us of previously confessed sins? Does our guilt win hearts for the gospel? Or does it keep us cowering and silent? Afraid to speak because we’re not a good enough representation of Christianity yet? Well, if it wouldn’t serve God to distract us and hold us back in that way, who would it serve? Again, Satan is not going to jump out and announce his presence. It behooves him for us to blame ourselves. But if it’s a war we are fighting, we need to recognize and call out the opposition for what it is.
The ongoing guilt for me is part of my battle. It may not be Satan’s stand-by to trip you up. But give some thought to what it might be. Pride? Fear? Naming these issues may provide us with some healthy distance psychologically, but renouncing the (often repeated) work of Satan helps us truly fight back, and clears up our cloudy vision.
It may be that the cross has become the most widely recognized symbol of Christianity. But if the sight of it stirs up guilt for you, know that that is not what God wants. God wants your thankful heart. It may take a long time to mentally replace all of the guilt that the cross conjures up. But for now, let’s remember that when we see it, to be filled instead with awe and gratitude.
- Bekah Arias