As we were exploring Western Washington this past weekend, we passed a church whose sign intrigued me. To be honest, I don’t remember the name of the church or its location. But the tag line on the sign pricked my interest. It read, “No guilt, no shame, no judgment.” On a different sign was written, “A place where anyone can belong.”
These two phrases caused me to reflect, Should churches and Christianity be guilt free? Should we remove any and every barrier so that all can feel comfortable?
On the one hand I would say “Yes” wholeheartedly. If we claim to be Christ followers, then we should strive to be accepting and non-judgmental. Jesus said that he came to reach sinners (Matthew 9:13). The least and the lost felt accepted and comfortable in his presence. In fact, he was often criticized for spending time with the wrong sort of people (Matthew 9:11).
On the other hand, Jesus did not allow people to remain where they were in their lives. While Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, he also told her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). While Zacchaeus felt comfortable enough to invite Jesus to dinner at his home, he also felt convicted and guilty enough to give back all he had stolen from people in his tax collection business (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus instructed the rich young man to get rid of his wealth because Jesus knew money and possessions had captured his heart (Matthew 19:16-30). Jesus had extremely harsh words for the self-righteous religious leaders (Matthew 23).
If we take a “no guilt, no shame, no judgment” approach to its logical extreme, we end up with a church like the one Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians. This church was so accepting and non-judgmental it put up with anything and everything. Paul took them to task for their division, lack of unity, partisan politics, and tolerance of sin.
In answering my first question, “Should Christianity be guilt free?” the answer is both Yes and No. Yes, we should accept people right where they are without passing judgment on their lifestyles. We want people to feel comfortable enough to consider Jesus. However, we should not allow people to remain where they are. In teaching the Scriptures accurately, we should call people to repentance and the pursuit of righteousness. This will produce a healthy sense of guilt, shame, and lasting lifechange.