A little guilt is good; too much guilt is selfish. To wallow in one’s guilt is to place too much importance on oneself. I think for too long, we have been too obsessed with our own spirituality. God doesn’t want perfect people; He just wants people He can use.
I think Jesus put a stop to all this “rules and guilt” nonsense by concluding the Sermon on the Mount with this: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Okay, thank you for clarifying that, Jesus. I’ll just go do that … not!
Honestly, what happens to you when you hear, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”? Do you get what He’s saying here? He’s telling us to be as good as God. Really? Don’t you want to just throw in the towel? Don’t you want to go, “Thanks, but no thanks”? Don’t you want to tell God that if He’s interested in you being perfect, He’s got the wrong guy? Did you ever wonder if that might be exactly what He wants us to think? That He might be saying this to purposely frustrate any of our attempts to be perfect by our own efforts? That when He tells us to be perfect, He’s not expecting us to go out and do that, He’s expecting us to throw ourselves on His mercy?
He’s intending to break us of any attempt at a righteousness of our own.
I think this is it: God doesn’t want perfect people; He wants broken people He can use. The Pharisees are what you get when you try to get perfect people. The poor in spirit are what you get when people give up trying, and those are the people Jesus says are blessed. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” They get it. They understand. They come empty to me to be filled. They come thirsty to me to get living water. They come as sinners needing my forgiveness, and as guilty needing my mercy. Jesus wants people who are done with themselves and ready to be put to use wherever God wants them.
I think we might have gotten taken up too much with the state of our own spirituality. God doesn’t want to impress anybody with us; He just wants to put us to work serving Him by serving others.