This small discussion on Guilt and Grace has particularly resonated with me as an Asian Australian. I think its really crucial when we’re ministering not only in our churches, but particularly Asian Australian churches (see the previous posts here and here).
There are a couple of reasons:
1. Most of us in these Asian Australian churches are now ‘Postmoderns‘. As one of my lecturers has written – “while Moderns thought that if we could know right, we would live right, postmoderns have no such delusions.” Using guilt as motivation may have worked with moderns but its pretty detrimental to postmoderns.” A mere focus on knowledge and preaching in a way like I spoke about in my last post simply does not appeal to postmoderns (asian or western).
2. It counters our (at-times) unhelpful Asian culture: when I was reading Chappell’s description of ‘the deadly Be’s’, (the ‘be like, be good, be disciplined), it sounded strangely familiar. Isn’t it?
- Be Like: your sibling / the other asian kid down the road who’s getting better marks than you etc.
- Be Good: don’t hang around the wrong people, study hard, be an obedient son/daughter etc.
- Be Disciplined: practice piano everyday, make sure you study so you can come top of the class etc.
Of course, none of them in themselves are necessarily bad things. But I’m sure many of you would know the feeling of being made to do those things outside the context of love and acceptance. It’s not great. Sometimes we can be easily tempted to transfer some unhelpful parts of our Asian-ness into the way we live as Christians. This same mentality that prizes achievement, performance and duty/obligation. I’m sure few of us instill guilt intentionally, but since many of us grew up with it, its almost natural so we need to be cautious.
The result of such an approach is damaging. Chappel reminds us that if all people hear are the shoulds – “they will inevitably face DESPAIR or PRETEND self-righteousness”. It’s pretty much one or the other. It seems you end up with people who leave the faith cause its too hard, or people who stay but are perhaps more like Pharisees or ‘smarter sinners’. It’s kinda sobering.
I wonder whether some Asian Australians just don’t see any difference between the Christianity they’ve been brought up with and the Asian culture they’ve been brought up in. Perhaps this is one reason why people leave – they graduate from uni and move out, leaving the duties of family and its religion behind?
Of course, not all aspects of Asian culture are bad. In fact, since many Asian Australians have such good discipline, achieve good results, and reach for high standards there is massive potential for God to use these things for the kingdom.
However, which is the better motivator? fear or love? guilt or grace? which one is easier? We are freed from slavery to sin, but now we are slaves for Christ. Unlike the duty-bound culture that many have grown up with, wouldn’t it be great if Asian (Australians) really understood the amazing gift of grace that Jesus gives – a refreshing, freeing and empowering faith; one that they are not bound to by duty and obligation, but one that produces joyful service from a grateful heart.
Such a difficult task! May God help us