Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
It’s Easter Sunday.
And I’m not in church.
We decided not to go this morning. The extent to which I feel like I have to give an explanation for this only reveals how guilt and shame driven our Christian culture has become. It’s like I need to have a great excuse, because the real reason isn’t holy enough. Maybe I’ll blame it on the traffic. Yes, traffic. Easter Sunday is easily the hardest morning to find a parking place. It’s like my friend Darrell says, “Easter is day that all the Christians should stay home so that all the other people can find a parking spot.”
Truth is, the long line of cars with drivers impatiently gripping their steering wheel waiting for a spot had very little to do with why we’re not there this morning. Shannon and I were tired, and we really just didn’t want to go. Condemnable? Well, first know that I considered that we might just be lazy. But as we processed our hearts, we both recognized the main force urging us to get dressed was driven by guilt and shame. We felt like we should go to church on Easter morning. Red Flag Alert. There are no “shoulds” in the Christian life. At least, they don’t come from God (Romans 8:1). Guilt deserves condemnation, and shame is the consequence. But God paid that fee. So if these feelings don’t come from God, they must derive from somewhere else. We have three enemies, you know. It could be the world. Or the flesh. Or the Accuser.
Don’t get me wrong. Attending service on Easter can be a great thing. But, too often we do good things for bad reasons. The good things become more important than the heart behind them, and it creates a perverted perspective on when a good thing is a good thing. It’s time we learn the practice of processing our hearts. It’s then we really begin to recognize our dignity and depravity. Paul said Christians live with both the flesh and the Spirit, constantly at struggle with each other. Paying attention to our motivations can expose both.
To experience shame for not attending Easter church would be to miss Easter altogether. How sad for the man who sits in church to celebrate purchased freedom because guilt and shame propelled him through the church’s doorway.
And yet, even as I sit here, acceptance of condemnation is only a surrender to the flesh away. It still stirs, tempting me to earn my freedom. How hard it is to choose life in the Spirit. Life. I almost forgot that was the point (John 10:10). Not going to church. Not following rules. Not keeping the law.
“…where the Spirit of the Lord, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
He is risen.
He is risen, indeed.