Every other year I revisit the vision goals of Just As You Are. For me they have become more than a vision for JAYA, they are a goal for my life. The first vision goal is to create a guilt free zone for worship and spiritual growth. That’s a good one for JAYA, but would not life be more enriching in we were able to create this zone wherever we may be?
My good friend , Shai, who is a very faithful Jewish man, laughed when he heard the by-line for Just As You Are – Experience the Unconditional Love of God … without the guilt of religion. He said, “Religion without guilt – Impossible! I should know. I am Jewish; we invented guilt.” And, in a sense he is right. Is it not guilt that brings us to the point of realizing, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)? Is it not guilt that motivates us to seek out God’s forgiveness, to realize that we need a Savior? Maybe guilt is not such a bad thing – maybe it is just misused, abused and leaves us confused.
I looked up guilt to help me find the words to make a distinction and there it was as plain as day: Guilt as a noun and guilt as a verb.
NOUN Definition: The fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense; remorseful awareness of having done something wrong; guilty conduct; sin.
Guilt as a noun can actually be a good thing, as long as it is discarded once we realize the forgiveness and love of God in Jesus Christ. We cannot create a place without this kind of guilt, because we carry that guilt with us. We can, however, create a space to release that guilt and realize the forgiveness available to all of us and we can create a place to let go of all the misplaced, invalid guilt that others pile on. Some of us have been so abused and maligned with guilt that it is our first reaction in almost every situation. That is guilt as a verb. It is guilt as a verb that we are talking about in our vision statement:
VERB Definition: To make someone feel guilty, in hopes of getting them to do something
My thoughts go to Romans 14. I have heard this passage misused and abused because of the last phrase of verse 13, “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s or sister’s way.” I have heard that phrase used to condemn alcohol, going to movies, dancing, or any other activity they want to guilt you out of doing. They invoke the concept of the weaker brethren, but they have missed the point, because they exclude the first part of the verse. Let’s read it in its entirety, “13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” The stumbling block is the judgment. The stumbling block is the condescension. The stumbling block is the condemnation. The stumbling block is intolerance. The stumbling block is the guilt of religion.
JAYA is a guilt a free zone. May my life also create a guilt free zone. The only one that has the right to judge you died for you and rose again in new life so that you too could have new life. The only one that could condemn you is reaching out to you in love and acceptance – free yourself from all that would distract you from that loving relationship God wants to have with you. GOD LOVES YOU Just As You Are. We have each been called to proclaim and live the unconditional love of God WITHOUT the guilt of religion – to create a safe, guilt free zone for worship and spiritual development.