In HOPE 5.24                                  back to home                        David Timms

Ministry Resource

Much of my thinking this week has been sparked by Paul Tournier's classic book Guilt and Grace (Eng. trans., Hodder & Stoughton, 1962). The book is no longer in print but can be bought (used) online. The insights are timeless and profound.

HOPE Happenings

Here at Hope, our School of Professional Studies will experience a change at the helm from November 1, 2005. Dr. Michele Willingham has been the Dean of SPS in recent years. She leaves us to take a position at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. Dr. Chris Davis (with whom I write "Bare Roots") has been appointed the new Dean of SPS. Our congratulations to him as he steps into this new leadership role. He'll do an outstanding job.





Hope International University
Fullerton, CA 92831


"A guilty conscience is the seasoning of our daily life." (Paul Tournier)

Not Guilty

It comes in pangs, twinges, waves, and thuds. Everyone experiences it. From family life to Christian life, guilt is a staple diet for most of us. We use guilt to coerce others, but find ourselves frequently on the receiving end. At least, it harangues us. At worst, it crushes us.

Nearly every circumstance in life has the capacity to evoke guilt. We may feel guilt for being wealthy or for being poor; for failed relationships or no relationships; for wasting time or for not setting aside time to waste with family and friends.

Feelings of guilt nudge us when we consider our prayer lives, our devotional lives, our level of evangelistic fervor, or our financial generosity. We regret missed deadlines, failed efforts, mediocre performances, and disappointing responses to people. We are ashamed of our secret thoughts and embarrassed by our spiritual immaturity.

Guilt sweeps over us when we think of our own sin ... and if we're not too disturbed, we feel guilty that we don't feel guilty.

Tournier was correct in his 1958 analysis of the human condition. Guilt is the seasoning of our daily life. It abounds for most of us ... and results in feelings of shame, unworthiness, and inferiority. It settles deep within us like a voracious tape-worm, and sucks the life from us.

Many Christians celebrate guilt. "It is the conscience at work, gradually making us better people." Really? The guilt most of us experience is usually the result of cultural expectations, not divine standards. Guilt monopolizes us. "Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Pass GO!" It stifles and destroys.

Does this prevalence of guilt in our lives give honor to the Gospel we proclaim? Even more importantly, can God's grace deal with the guilt that weighs upon us?

Can grace put to rest the guilt-demons associated with a divorce? Can grace relieve the guilt-pain of an addiction? Can grace smooth the guilt-waves that come with losing a job? Can grace bring healing to the guilt-wounds of an abortion?

Some Christian leaders (and parents) utilize guilt to manipulate people. Their motives may be pure but their methods are not. Perhaps their past experience was shame-based living. Guilt often produces outward conformity, but also inward deformity. People work harder but with more strain and less joy. 

The task of the grace-based community is to combat the false shame that permeates our lives . Grace is to guilt what light is to darkness. If grace cannot over-ride guilt, then the gospel is deficient.

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (Jn 4) or the leper (Mk 1) or the tax collector (Lk 19) or the adulteress (Jn 8), He focused on their future potential not their past failure. He encouraged them to new lifestyles rather than berated them for old ones. He offered forgiveness not judgement. He replaced shame with dignity, embarrassment with worth, and brokenness with hope. He still does!

Are we doing the same for others?



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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board of the institution. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

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