Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: guilt

Faith based service

I got to chatting with some of the younger generation at the lunch after my cousin’s funeral on Tuesday. (In this case, younger means somewhere around 60.)

Ron is executive director of an organisation that flys volunteers into remote northern communities to conduct Vacation Bible School in the summer and to maintain contact at other times in the year. They also hold Bible Studies with the youth in these communities, sometimes go into the schools to pray with the students and teachers. The people in these communities are mostly Dene, Cree and Ojibway. The outreach is well received, the Vacation Bible Schools reach 5,000 children every summer and the communities are supportive.

Jackie (not her real name) was the executive director of a faith-based addictions rehab centre. This was largely government funded and several years ago the government decided to pull their funding. An attempt was made to raise enough money through donations to continue, but it didn’t work out.

The government said they wanted to fund evidence based programs, not ones that were faith based. I wondered about that, especially when Jackie mentioned that many of their clients were dealing with guilt issues. That would probably be the sticking point. From the psychological point of view, feelings of guilt are the problem. Counselling is geared towards helping people free themselves of such feelings.

As Christians, we acknowledge that sometimes there are guilt feelings that torment the mind but have no real basis in actual guilt. At other times, the only effective way to be set free of guilt feelings is to recognize that we really are guilty. Then it can be possible to be forgiven and to forgive others. That is the way of deliverance. Don’t expect governments to understand that. At lest not in the times in which we live.

Thanks be to God, there are still many faith-based organisations out there that are funded by donations and are doing effective work that is beyond the reach of psychology and government.

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The healing power of forgiveness

There is a great peace that comes over us when God forgives our sins, a release from the load of guilt that we have been carrying and a soothing of the pangs of conscience. Yet we tend to soon forget the caveat that comes with this peace: ” But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:15).

Other people do and say so many irritating and hurtful things. Surely they should apologize and ask our forgiveness so we could feel better about what they have done. Some will, but we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for every single person who has ever wronged us to come and apologize.

The apostle John tells us: ” If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (1 John 5:16). He goes on to say that “all unrighteousness is sin,” that is, everything that is not done out of a pure heart is prompted by our own sinful tendencies, aided by the tempter. No matter how minor they may be, they are sin. Yet, as long as they are not deliberate, wilful sins, we should not consider them grounds for separation of Christian fellowship. We should rather pray for that brother, and hope that he prays for us when we do or say hurtful things that we really did not intend to be hurtful.

“Charity shall cover the multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8). Charity is a healing balm in our Christian fellowship that helps us forgive others, accept them and feel accepted by them. There are serious sins that require a sterner approach, but let us consider two things. First, those sins are first and foremost sins against God. We should not put ourselves in God’s place in the judgment seat. Secondly, could it be that those sins are a result of a lack of charity among us? Let us examine ourselves lest the lack of charity become a stumbling block to others.

How much emotional distress, in ourselves and others, would be relieved if we could just learn to more ready to forgive? “So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7). This was said in the circumstance of someone who had repented of a very serious sin. Surely it would not be wrong to apply it in less serious circumstances.

It is good to be zealous in upholding that which is right and true. We need to be careful however, that in our zeal we do not do more harm than good. There is a way to take a stand for the truth that does not leave people with bruised and hurt feelings. A readiness to forgive does not mean an acquiescence in sin. If we cannot forgive, we cause ourselves to suffer and do no good for the person who has sinned. When we freely love and forgive we have a much greater opportunity to point others to the source of forgiveness.

Refuge

Yesterday morning, one of our ministers preached on the subject of refuge. Before the children of Israel entered the promised land, God gave them detailed instructions for establishing cities of refuge. They were to be located throughout the land in such a manner that no one would be more than a half day’s journey from a city of refuge.

The purpose was that if anyone caused the death of someone else accidentally and unintentionally, he could flee from the avenger and find safety. It was part of the law that a family member of the person killed could and should avenge the death of the one slain. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth and death for death, that was the Old Testament law; I’m sure it exercised a powerful dissuasion on most people. But in a case where the death was not intentional, it would have been contrary to justice to avenge that death upon a person who was in reality innocent.

Despite his innocence, the one who had caused the death of another was only safe within the confines of the city of refuge. If he ever strayed beyond those bounds, he was fair game for the avenger. The person who caused the death of another could not return to his home until the high priest died.

The protection of the cities of refuge was not only for the children of Israel. Numbers 35:15 says: “These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.”

There was even a measure of mercy in the law about the avenger of blood. In other societies of that era, the death of a member of a clan might very well lead to all out clan warfare and the deaths of many more. The law of Israel limited the vengeance to the one who had killed. Once that was done, justice had been accomplished and there would be no ongoing feud between clans. The city of refuge went beyond that and was a wonderful example of hope and mercy in a time of harsh and immediate justice.

Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we . . . might have hope (Romans 15:4). All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11 ).

What then are we to draw from this example for our benefit today? The New Testament tells us that we are all guilty and worthy of the most severe judgement. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 ). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore we are all guilty, is there yet a place of refuge for us in our day?

Hebrews chapter six reveals that the mercy of God has now provided a refuge for the guilty. “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). Reading further in the chapter, we see that Jesus Christ is that refuge and that he is called a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. That is, He has once died to set us free, now He lives forever to be a permanent refuge for all the sinners who will flee to Him.

Saturday I had a conversation with a brother that I believe ties into the theme of refuge. He was talking about people who had lived in iron curtain countries. They recounted how their children had to go to the public schools where they were subjected to atheist propaganda day after day. Therefore the parents, day after day after their children came home from school, taught diligently from the Bible the Christian way. All of their children chose the Christian way, rather than the way of atheism.

Then they came to America, where there was no more persecution. And the children raised in America chose the way of the world. There is a lesson there for all of us. Our supposedly free nations are not a refuge for us from the attacks of our spiritual enemy. It is not time for parents to relax their teaching program and assume all will be well. We need the same single-minded fervency as those parents had when living under Communist rule. This vile world, however friendly it may seem, is not a friend to grace, nor a refuge from Satan.

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