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Should We Feel Guilty?

In justice advocacy we encounter many gut-wrenching repercussions of the Fall of humanity. Scrolling through social media feeds and news updates becomes absorbing and disturbing. Mounting death tolls in Syria, dystopian conditions in Ferguson, climate change, children turned away from sanctuary at the Mexican border, Indigenous women continuing to go missing. Encountering injustice over and over again without becoming burdened is a struggle for many justice advocates in the church.

My colleague Shannon Jammal-Hollemans recently made a powerful statement, saying Christians tend to focus on the Fall at the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil, rather than focusing on the Tree of Life. I believe this cuts to the core of the “burden” of injustice, shedding light on the frustrating, paradoxical occurrence of disempowered Jesus followers.

So when the shadow of injustice is cast in our midst, how do we respond? We know evil is the imposter. This is a natural reaction because our restored first natures intuitively know evil to be a divergence from God’s good and reconciled order of things. Consequently, we may feel burdened by powerlessness, guilt, and anger. The legacy of the Fall and the Tree of Knowledge appears to be more of a reality than the Tree of Life. But if dwelling on the fall of man creates chronically burdened Christians, we are denying our identity in Jesus' New Covenant of being forgiven, joy-filled, and restored. 

Guilt is a particularly heavy burden. We may feel guilty for having safe homes, for being born into privilege; guilty for the actions of our ancestors and current leaders, and for being powerless in the smirking face of evil to make things right. We apologize in our spirits again and again for the injustices the human race ravages against each other.

Reality check: guilt has absolutely no part in a Christian’s life, for in essence it says we still deserve to be punished.

Why do we persist in this, when salvation in Christ says we are forgiven and heirs to a Life abundant (John 10:10)? He has restored the original design of Creation, and the first nature of our souls. He has restored the fullness initially represented in the Tree of Life.

I believe it is part of the devil’s original lie to encourage the attaching of our identity to the Tree of Knowledge instead of the Tree of Life. The father of lies’ first agenda is to keep Christians burdened and enslaved. He is terrified of seeing the God's people reinstated to their first nature as whole human beings and the Kingdom thriving as a result.

The choice is ours. Do we believe the original lie? Do we stay in the exhausting absurdity of believing we are disempowered Christians? Or do we “… lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God[?]” (Hebrews 12:12)

Followers of Jesus, let us not do Jesus a disfavor by repeating Eve and Adam’s first mistake of listening to the devil’s lies. Faith is focusing on Jesus and silencing all other voices; especially the ones that say we are guilty, helpless, and powerless. In this inner transformation (Romans 12:2), the burden of injustice becomes a light and easy yoke (Matthew 11:30).

Instead, let us turn our intuitive loathing of injustice into a channel for intercessory prayer. Let us look on Jesus’ fulfilled agenda of complete healing and restoration. And when we take action against injustice, in partnership with the Creator of the universe, let us do so with a victory song in our hearts. For the battle has already been won. 

Want to respond to Grace? Find her on Twitter at @gracevanberkel

[Image: Flickr user rosipaw]

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