A large portion of sermons begin with the “humble” recognition that we are sinners. They begin by lowering all of us, so that we will listen to their answers. When we base the entire experience of church and of developing a relationship with God on guilt, on feeling insufficient for His mercy, we lose the love that He promised us first. We wear guilt with us every day to atone for our actions and to remind us to not turn back towards sin, but God said ask and you will be forgiven. The one thing that Jesus accomplished across the board was making those He encountered feel the love that God has for us before the guilt. I’m not coming to punish you. I want to fellowship with you. I want to talk with you. All that other stuff fades away, just lets you and me talk and walk together for a bit. He always let people come to Him and welcomed them before ever asking for a confession or for repentance. Jesus made sure that we didn’t associate Him with the church’s additional doctrines or guilt-tripping to increase attendance and tithing.
In a lot of our current prison systems, we have the same mentality. We convince them that they are paying for their crimes without teaching them about reform, about being better people or how to manage their situations without resorting to drastic measures. In both instances, we don’t ask what they were missing that put them in that situation. A lot of times we are lost and don’t know where to look or where to start with the Bible, but rather we google verses or follow devotionals. But these aren’t always the answer or the problem that we’re struggling with in our lives.
Prayer does not guarantee a direct answer. It barely even guarantees that we know what we are saying or asking for. However, He asked us to speak with Him, to come to know Him better, and to bring all of our problems to Him. We’ve all been told to pray at certain times or that if we prayed longer that we would get the answer we hope for, but that isn’t His plan; it’s ours. We have to work to communicate with Him, but primarily to become better Christians, not for fear of guilt, but for our love of God. If we focus on the wrong side of the equation, on the “Reformed Christian” and think we can build a system on how to turn A into B, we will always be lost: those that are in the pews and those behind the pulpit. Jesus was here to give us the grace and love and joy that transforms us in the first place. If we’re peddling heaven like a million dollar lottery ticket, trying to get everyone to buy in, in case they’re the lucky one that buys enough tickets to get in, we’re not following Jesus’ path. I never want to be a salesman or a magic man with his tonics. I’m a blood-bought son of God, speaking from a place of freedom and from God’s love. The truth has a way of selling itself, and we can only find reformation through that love.