Christians seem to enjoy beating each other up. Frequently. We’re never good enough for each other, and the only way we seem to know how to help each other “be better Christians” is to point out what we think are shortcomings.
I think we mean well, but some of the people who’ve hurt me the most in my life have been Christians who wanted to help me.
A Christian once sat me down and told me that I needed to be less connected to my family, because it prevented me from maturing in my faith. Another time, a Christian told me I was disobeying God because I was leading a Bible study, and women aren’t supposed to do that. Another Christian told me I was a heretic because I’d combined the words of Christ from John and Matthew in a drama I’d written.
I’m certain all these people wanted to help me be a better Christian, but in every instance, they did more damage than good. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s healthy at times to challenge what you believe, but using guilt as a sledgehammer is never the right approach. Never ever.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
God is the only one qualified to use guilt as motivation, and He chooses not to. If you are a Christ-follower, your guilt has been washed away. Through Jesus, you have been made right with God, and you have peace with Him. That means there’s nothing you need to do, nothing you need to add, nothing you need to accomplish to make your salvation complete.
It’s done. Finished. Complete.
And God didn’t need our help to do it either.
So when another Christian tells you that you need to do something in order to make God happy, take a second. I’m a performance-driven perfectionist, and I love God with all my heart. I’ll work myself to exhaustion twice over if I know it’s for God, and I’ll do it cheerfully and happily, even as my physical, emotional, and spiritual health collapses. If it’s for God, I’ll do it.
But is it for God? Does God really expect us to do that to ourselves? Or are you just doing it for the Christian who won’t leave you alone about it?
In each instance when Christians confronted me about my problems, they all told me I’d done something to hurt my relationship with God. I needed to stop calling my mom every morning. I needed to sit still and be led at church. I needed to quote scripture on stage instead of telling a story.
But was God the one who was upset about all that? Or was it the people who were confronting me? Did the Christian who wanted me to stop talking to my mom really think it made me immature, or did it make her realize that she had a terrible relationship with her mother? Was the Christian who wanted me to stop leading Bible study concerned for my spiritual wellbeing, or was he feeling guilty because he wasn’t stepping up? And was the Christian who challenged what I wrote really offended, or was he convicted?
I can’t answer any of those questions because they’re all heart problems, and only a few of them are mine. But one thing I have learned from all those examples is that if guilt doesn’t work for God, it won’t work for us.
God doesn’t draw people to Him though guilt. Yes, we all feel guilt, but even though we all have it, we don’t flock to people who make us feel guilty. Do we? No. We run to people we know love us in spite of our guilt, and that’s what God does. God doesn’t use guilt to pound us into submission. He offers free grace—unconditional love that says I’ll pay for your guilt.
The issue here isn’t about becoming a better Christian. Becoming a better Christian puts the responsibility on you. Learn more. Study more. Volunteer more. Do more. But nothing you do will make you a better Christian, because being a Christian isn’t about what you do. It’s about who you know.
That’s why Satan uses guilt so frequently, because guilt drives us away from God. If we see Him as a judge, fearsome and righteous towering over us with a hammer just waiting to smash us, we’ll be too terrified to approach Him. God has already paid the price for our guilt. He sent Jesus to take it away, so there is no guilt between God and those who have chosen to follow Christ. You are made right with Him. So you have peace with Him.
So many times I think Christians get busy on purpose so that they don’t have the time to truly get to know God. That’s where I was for years. It was much easier to work myself to exhaustion than it was to sit quietly in God’s presence and let Him see all of me.
Following Christ is about knowing God.
How do you know God? Well, how do you get to know anyone? You spend time with Him. One on one, where no one will overhear or interfere. Just you and Him.
Want to be a better Christian? You can’t.
But more one-on-one time with God never hurt anybody. And the more time you spend with Him, the more you’ll be like Him. And I don’t know about you, but being a better Christian loses its appeal at the thought of being more like Christ.