As usual, Tom sat quietly during the first part of our small group bible study, just listening and thinking. Eventually, Tom would start talking, and what he had to say was always well thought-out, inspiring, and intriguing. I looked forward to the moment when Tom decided to join the conversation. But on this night, he shocked me with, “I just know I’m not going to heaven. I’ve done too many bad things in my life. God can’t love me. I’m just not good enough.”
Tom is a victim of a scam of guilt promoted by some churches. Though Tom would accept that God doesn’t hate sinners, he and others like him have difficulty in believing that God can in fact love them; they just don’t feel good enough. Does God love only good people?
First, the “goodness” Tom believes he lacks does not come from behavior, but from faith: “This righteousness (goodness) from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23) It’s not the amount of goodness or badness that matters – it’s what you believe.
God doesn’t care about our past; He cares about now. No matter how dark your past may be, where are you now? Do you feel distressed about past sins? Do you wish you could erase the sins of yesterday, and resist the sins of today? I know Tom does; he said so. To such a show of repentance Jesus would say, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)
(This is an excerpt from the book I’m writing)
Are you like my friend Tom? Have you been wounded by flawed messages? If so, maybe check out the Facebook group, For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing.