Neither mission trips nor guilt trips

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The life of a follower of Christ can at times be easily lost in the busyness of every day life. It also, unfortunately,  can be summed up in two trips: missions trips and guilt trips.

Mission trips

You take group A and send them to location B (preferably outside one’s town, and better yet if it’s outside one’s country) and have them help built houses, feed the homeless, do 5 day clubs or VBS, etc. Interact long enough so that you’ve done your good deed and taken enough photos to raise support for next year’s mission trip and to give you that elated “missions trip high” …but short enough that one’s value there is a blip, that thought of committing to it for life isn’t achieved, that you’re there and you’re gone and you nor the ones you went to will truly wonder why you went- for them? For God? For yourself?
As much as my statements appear to be cynical and critical of the ever-popular short term mission trip, I will let you in to a bit of my entwining of missions trips and my life. When I was 5 or 6 I supported through the AWANA program a missionary my church supported who was in Nagoya Japan. I did extra errands, saved what I could, and donated it to him when he came into town to report back to our congregation as to what he had been doing. I thoroughly enjoyed giving to him what I could at an early age, I was also over the moon when he spent nearly a day with my family and myself.

When I was in high school my sister’s youth group went to Juárez Mexico…and I, with 3-4 days to spare, went along as well. We made a house for a family of 5 through a mission group called Casas Por Cristo out of El Paso Texas, and what do I remember about the trip?
1) We made a house
2) 3 kids; Olga, Luis, and Soche
3) I was accused of being gay because I was myself, a nice guy, not some hardass patriarchal authority figure type.
4) I bought the 3 kids a soccer ball
5) I went to a bizarre and it was quite bizarre
6) I ate an awesome steak and I think it cost me $6
7) I experienced the short term mission trip high…

With this last bit I remember coming back and thinking how much I wanted that feeling to “stick” to me, and if I stuck to a system of reading the Bible more, praying more, doing devotions more, God would show up that much MORE as a result and I would have that elated feeling all the time. Because that’s what God wants, right?

But that’s not what following Christ is about.

***

Guilt trips

The church is very very guilty at wagging the finger and the tongue at its own and others in making them feel, well, guilty. Some of it comes from presenting the gospel message from a place of God’s judgment and wrath instead of God’s love and grace, some of it comes from a warped Calvinist view that says we are (by default) living in sin and live lives of “total depravity”, some of it comes from personal views and unhealthy assumptions as to how God looks us as individuals as well as the world… The list goes on to why guilt is such an effective albeit destructive tool in the church and outside, but there are oppressors and there are a lot more oppressed.
I bore witness to this in my youth when my father would present his staunch Calvinist views via a presentation on TULIP, I fed into some of this when I was presented with black and white theology; either you believe in God or you don’t, either you’ll wind up in Heaven or in Hell, either you’re living for God or you’re not, etc. It was a difficult burden to live under the weight of black and white theology, because even though I was “saved” I still didn’t know because I was “totally depraved”. It was a weight that was not put upon my shoulders by Christ, but rather by other Christians, and maybe (I’ll have to think about it) I pushed that weight on others as well.

Guilt tripping is not what following Christ is about either.

***

When I think about the gospel message presented I am reminded of the country-esque quote of “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” and I can attest to that in my walk with Christ; it was grace and unconditional love that won me over, and still wins me over time and time again. It wasn’t the guilt trips (permanent low) or mission trips (temporary high) that pointed to what living unto Christ is about, but rather the day-in and day-out living in community, with others, unto God and also unto others. The parts of the Bible attributed to Jesus in what he said and what he did fuels me and encourages me to “go and do likewise“. There is an interconnectedness between everyone and it is my desire to seek out the good and the Imago Dei-ness everyone possesses. I no longer live out of guilt nor a sense of I-gotta-do-A*-to-get-right-with-God either, and you know what? It isn’t about the highs nor is it about the lows, but it is about the everyday living unto God unto others, and that is all I need and it is all I want as well.
Yes there are good days, but there are also bad days, and I take it all in stride. Some days I wish I did more and some days I wish I did less, but in all things to God be the glory and the strength to continue on, to go…and do likewise.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

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2 thoughts on “Neither mission trips nor guilt trips

  1. I used to have a wonderful therapist many years ago who was Jewish. I was pulling away from christianity at the time and we discussed guilt often. We joked that our faiths were basically guilt with different holidays. Guilt and fear keep people going to church sometimes decades after they stop believing. I never had a mission trip, but I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for everything from accidentally breaking a plate when I was about 12 years old (I had nightmares about hell for several nights thereafter), to disappointing my parents by being so different from them. I even felt horrible guilt for losing my faith. The guilt tripping that goes on in churches is purposeful and filled with intent. It also works. Too well.

  2. Hello, Nathanael! Mike Morrell asked me to contact you because he really appreciates your blog and thinks you’d be an excellent candidate for his Speakeasy Blogger Network. Do you like to review off-the-beaten path faith, spirituality, and culture books? Speakeasy puts interesting books in your hands at no charge to you. You only get books when you request them, and it’s free to join. Sign up here, if you’d like: http://thespeakeasy.info

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