I don’t know why, but I love trios. I look at my favorite rock bands and a large percentage of them are trios. Rush, The Police, Cream, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience occupy a big chunk of my secular music collection (of which there is not much, let me tell you). On the Christian side, I think the best live performance I ever saw was the Charlie Peacock Trio. So trios capture my imagination.
Even bad trios.
The last few weeks have found me thinking about the state of the Church on a more visceral level. Not the high-level stuff about how to better small groups or preach more effectively, but real meat issues that penetrate us to the core of who we are as individual Christians.
In the end, I see three paralyzing factors that stop us dead:
I have an idea that this terrible trio robs more people of effectiveness, joy, and growth in Christ than nearly anything else. Start searching the roots of the modern American Church’s problems and almost all of them can be traced to this trio.
Take any issue facing the Church today and you can filter each issue through that trio and it will make sense as to why we’re not reaching our potential in Christ.
Let’s consider evangelism. On the surface, what’s hard about evangelism? A Christian tells a non-Christian about Jesus. Simple, right?
Now add the terrible trio and see what happens to our evangelistic zeal!
- Fear – we are inadequate for the task.
- Shame – we may not know the Scriptures well enough to answer an inquirer’s questions adequately.
- Guilt – we don’t share Christ often enough—or at all.
Or how about being a single Christian?
- Fear – we will always be single and will never find lasting love in this life.
- Shame – we keep making one relational mistake after another while others enjoy happy marriages.
- Guilt – we’ve failed to remain sexually pure.
Or how about accepting a call to the pastorate?
- Fear – our new congregation will wither and die while we’re on watch.
- Shame – others have been established for years in the pastorate, so why did it take us so long?
- Guilt – no one knows that we’re just as messed up as the average guy in the pews.
See, the terrible trio of fear, shame, and guilt can be applied to nearly any situation/event/idea that rises up in the Church. You can postulate outcomes, discern motivations, and uncover hidden belief systems all by filtering reality through the lens of the terrible trio.
This may be more personal than some folks can handle, but do you recall your wedding night? The first time you and your spouse stood naked before each other? Was that a shame-filled moment? It wasn’t for me, nor was it for my wife. In fact, what struck me in that moment more than just about anything was the utter lack of shame. Not one fleck of shame intruded into our time together. I understood then what it meant to be back in the Garden, to be as God created us. Even as a sinner, I tasted what it meant to be free from shame.
Now what if we lived out our lives in such a way that we took that lack of shame with us everywhere we went? What would happen to us as Christian if we lived without fear, without guilt?
Don’t you know that’s EXACTLY how we should be living?
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
The terrible trio are bondage, pure and simple. As Children of the Heavenly Father, we’ve been released from those chains! Are we then living as a free people? Or do we reshackle ourselves and others?
What would a Church look like that was free of fear, a stranger to shame, and unbound from shackles of guilt?
Lord Jesus, make us a people who are devoid of fear, shame, and guilt. By Your grace, extend to us that freedom so that we might live as You intended from the beginning of time. You have bought us that right. By your Holy Spirit make that freedom real in the lives of your children. In Jesus name, amen!