Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Manipulation/Guilt Model

Sister Carmen’s day started in a joyful manner. She had not been going to church because she was caring for her bed ridden mother. This day one of her sisters said she would look after Mom, so Carmen could take some time off and go to church. While in church, however, she felt bombarded with messages of what constitutes good Christianity. Through out the service it was said, “A good Christians give Bible studies, they pass out tracts, they bring guests to church, and they are active in community service helping others in need. A good Christian goes to church service and is very active in all the services and programs. A good Christian gives a lot of money to church. God is disappointed with inactive Christians. He is pleased with good Christians.”

Sister Carmen wanted to be a Christian in her heart, but how could she do this when she was to care for her mother. She could not leave her mother. Oh, the feeling of remorse she felt was unbearable. She wondered how many others in the congregation felt the same as her. She looked around and saw many long sad faces. “Was God being fair?” she thought. She silently prayed to God and asked Him, “O God, how can I please you?”

Sister Therese approached Sister Carmen at the end of the service. After doing the customary small talk, Sister Therese asked about Sister Carmen’s mother. Sister Carmen told her that her mother was fine considering the circumstances. She also told Sister Therese about how hard it was to care for her. But, she added, “God had been answering prayers.” Sister Therese said to Sister Carmen, “It is a wonderful work you are doing. I know that God is pleased with you. I remember when we prayed about you staying with your mother. You did not want to do it, but you said that if that is what God wanted you to do you would. And, you are.” Sister Carmen interjected, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “Philippians 4:13,” Sister Therese responded immediately. At that moment Sister Carmen started to cry. Sister Therese got closer to her, and asked her, “What is wrong, child?” “O, sister,” Carmen answered through her tears, “I heard all these things about the things you need to do to please God. So, I prayed to God to show me how I could please Him. He sent you to answer me.” Sister Therese embraced Sister Carmen. She told her softly, “Child, don’t listen to these manipulators. They do not know any better. We just got to pray for them. As Paul says, ‘Without faith it is impossible to please Him[i].’ And, you know, what Christ told Nicodemus, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son…[ii] He loves us unconditionally. That is why He sent His Son. And, they sent the Holy Spirit to walk with us, so we can walk like Jesus: doing the will of the Father. That’s why He told the disciples, ‘This is my Son in who I am pleased. Listen to Him[iii].’ You listened to Him and you are doing His will. He is pleased with you.” Sister Carmen now was crying and laughing. She looked up and prayed, “Praise be to God. Thank you, Lord.”

Have you ever felt as Sister Carmen felt this one time? Has guilt ever driven you to do anything? Have you ever felt pressured to do something because of what you thought others may think of you? Has ‘others’ ever been God? Have you ever given in to others’ manipulative pleas because you did not want to feel remorse? Did you think that attempting to get rid of your remorse will make you right with God?

There is only one way to be made right with God: 1. It is by continually accepting by faith what Christ has done on the cross; 2. It by responding with a sense of gratitude to the belief that Christ is your personal Savior. This is what God wants from us. He wants for us to listen and to pay attention to Him because we trust Him. He wants agape to drive us, not guilt. He wants us to yield to the Holy Spirit leading, and not to a feeling of remorse of what others may think of you. God does not manipulate you into anything. He leads, you choose to follow.