The Truth about Cats and Dogs

Here are some outline notes from a church weekend away that I spoke at recently. These bring together a lot of the “guilt and shame/ grace and forgiveness” theme in one place.  Note a more detailed version of  part 2 should be posted here later this week. 

Part 1 The thing we don’t like to talk about – but probably should (Psalm 51)


The difference between cats and dogs

Dogs show guilt in their face

Cats cause you to feel guilt

A lot of people carry a heavy burden of guilt and shame –it can cripple us as we seek to serve God. It can cripple churches too

What is guilt?

Often when we talk about guilt we really mean subjective guilt –this is to do with how we feel.  I feel/ believe I am guilty I have done wrong. I have failed to meet personal expectations or the perceived expectations of others

This is closely aligned with shame

Shame is …. a deep emotion connected with humiliation, rejection and pain –a sense of being exposed, found out for who I really am and what I’m  really like

The problem with false guilt  – subjective guilt and shame may be false

Wrong Expectations and accusations of others or myself

Blame and accusation unfairly attributed – e.g. the abuse victim

Two issues

Crushed when it’s not my fault

Distraction from real guilt … e.g apologising for historic events is easier than dealing with what happens now.

Real guilt

David’s story –  Bathshebah

A recognition of guilt before God (Psalm 51:3-4)

The Solution to guilt and shame

What God is like

Unfailing love & compassion (Psalm 51:1)

Truth (Psalm 51:6)

Saving (Psalm 51:14)

What David asks for

Mercy and forgiveness (v1)

Cleansing (v 2, v 7)

Healing, restoration, new creation (v 10-11)

Postscript –What God does with shame – Noah’s story

For reflection

Is there anything I am carrying guilt and shame for?

Is it false or real guilt?

What do I need to do?

Part 2 How (not) to be the guilt driven church (Ephesians 2:8-10)


The book we bought and the book we read

Rick Warren’s best sellers “The purpose driven life” and “The purpose  driven church” –but a lot of churches and Christian lives feel “guilt driven” …not purpose driven

What do I mean ….

Trying to bridge a gap

“For it is by grace you have been saved …. To do good works.”

Now – you know that in the … bit is quite a bit of Biblical text ( 2 verses worth) – but what we can end up doing is taking out the two verses and infilling with a lot of our own stuff. And that’s where you get the alternative book.

So I find it helpful to sum up how we do church and how we play around with guilt under 3 headings

Legalism …

Licence …

Magic ….

Solving the problem

Well it’s actually so incredibly obvious really isn’t it? Go back and see what those verses say

The flow is ….


  1. For it is by grace you are saved ….   – note “for” pushes us back –we were dead …. You can’t save yourself (v 8)
  2. Yourself/works are contrasted/sandwiched around “God’s work” –salvation is God’s work (v 8)
  3. In order that ….The purpose is to rule out boasting
  4. But note this follows through. V 10 includes a “for” too …we cannot boast because we are God’s workmanship – he is the one who equips us./prepares us for service (nb links back that his aim is to be glorified by showing off the riches of his grace and kindness)


So the good works are something that God recreates us for and equips us for. It is grace all the way. I don’t get saved by grace and keep going by something else.

I am saved by grace and I go on by grace

This means we need to keep going back to the Gospel. The Gospel is for mature Christians too.

To think about

When I am challenged to do something

-life change

-service in God’s family

What drives me –grace or guilt?

In what ways am I/is our church tempted to fall into legalism, licence or magic? Which of the three is the greatest danger to us?

Part 3 How Jesus deals with guilt and shame (John 21)

The problem of incompleteness


A couple of things we’ve picked up on

  • Jesus deals with sin and guilt -I sort of get that and the objective guilt bit is easy enough but the shame less easy –how do I get on with things when people are still mocking or disowning me.
  • Okay so legalism and licence and magic are not the answer …. But what do we do if we want a church to function effectively and for people to grow into holy lives.

There still seems to be some detail to fill in …. And we probably aren’t going to get all the way there in 20 minutes today!

But I think there are some further clues here at the lakeside over Breakfast.    All usual disclaimers apply I don’t think that this is all that is going on in John 21 and I’m not offering a close exegesis this morning  – but what does Jesus do with Peter

An invite to come and eat


Meals are important for Jesus  -hospitality culture . Jesus often uses them to teach lessons and those lessons are often about who is welcome at his table

Jesus eats with the shamed –tax collectors, sinners, has his feet washed by sinners ad provides food for the forgetful.

What happens here? It’s family time. Here are these men who messed up –deniers and disowners. But Jesus invites them to come and eat with him.

A couple of things here

  1. Our responsibility to welcome the guilty, shamed and heavy burdened. If they are welcomed by Jesus they are welcomed by us
  2. Meals are for family   -nb How do you view church membership (cf 1 Corinthians 12)
Go Feed


Jesus has a conversation with Peter “Do you love me”  – dealing with guilt and shame does not avoid the tough conversations.  Shame and guilt carry pain but that pain means we have to come to Christ –own your shame

Restoration includes work in God’s kingdom …. “for  good works”

Nb 1  -when Jesus puts Peter to work he has infallible insight.  He knows everything.  So  he knows exactly what is right for Peter. Some care needed for us. I don’t think that restoration will necessarily mean into the same or into every role.  For example someone who has been caught in sexual immorality should not go (back) into pastoral ministry nor a person who has been involved in financial irregularities into a treasurer’s role. This is not about shame but about pastoral care and wisdom for them and the family.  We don’t knowingly put people in temptation’s way.

NB 2. Restoration for Peter was in some respects harder than just slipping into the background. It means he will in fact die the death he originally said he was willing to die. In fact where he failed in sacrifice, Christ says there will be a second opportunity and this time he will die for his Lord. So from one angle Jesus’ words about Peter’s death look like bad news but even this is grace.

This is not an attitude of gratitude.  Future Grace protects us from thinking we can “pay it back”

BUT  my new life in Christ means I show trust

  1. That I really have been changed (cf Romans 6:1-2)
  2. That God is with me – I am secure & safe in him
  3. That I have hope – looking forward to future grace “There is a day”