Christians Should Stop Saying They Feel Convicted

Christians Should Stop Saying They Feel Convicted June 22, 2022

“I feel convicted that I need to give to support that missionary.” “I feel convicted that I need to give up chocolate for Lent.” “I feel convicted about that lie I told my boss.” I hear these phrases in Evangelical circles all the time. And the more I think about it, the more I feel convicted we need to stop saying that.

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels

 

As the Gavel Falls

I’m drafting this article while sitting in court, waiting for my client’s case to be presented. As a behavioral health specialist, I support clients who have gotten themselves into legal trouble. I watch their hang dog appearance as evidence is presented against them. I see their desperation as they look to their defense attorney for help. I feel the remorse for the things they have done, and their hopelessness as the gavel falls and their conviction is read. My clients will live with a sense of shame for the rest of their lives because society labels them a convict. It’s about time Christians stopped using this word.

 

Just Stop It

Evangelicals talk about feeling convicted in a number of circumstances.

  1. Moral conviction about something they have done, like that lie they told their boss.
  2. Moral conviction about something they should do, like giving to a missionary.
  3. Moral conviction about something they should stop doing, like eating chocolate during Lent.

You should stop saying you feel convicted—because God wants you to feel just the opposite. Feeling convicted means you feel like a criminal who has been brought to trial and proven guilty. For too long the Evangelical Church has made people feel guilty for just being human. God doesn’t want you to feel guilty. The whole point of the Gospel is to set you free. The Gospel isn’t about being convicted, but acquitted, of your sins. So, stop using the word convicted, and embrace your freedom in Christ.

 

About Ten Minutes

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that guilt is only healthy to feel for about ten minutes. After that, it’s time to shake it off. If you’re convinced you need to do something different because of your guilt, then make that change—but don’t walk around feeling guilty and convicted all the time.

 

Conviction Means Shame

Conviction isn’t just associated with guilt. It is also connected to shame. Adam and Eve felt convicted about their nakedness, so they hid themselves in the garden. This conviction was not the leadership of the Holy Spirit, but their own sense of disgrace just for being the way God made them. Since that time, religion has served up unhealthy portions of humiliation to anyone who will accept it. When you say you’re feeling convicted, it sounds an awful lot like shame, which is the opposite of the joy God wants you to feel in Christ.

 

Convicted, or Convinced?

Many people use the word “convicted” to indicate that the Spirit led them to do something. When people use the word convicted to mean convinced, that’s just poor English. There is no other context in our language where this word means that a person has had an impression or feels inspired. Please stop using this word in that context, because in doing so you’re wrongly interjecting an unnecessary sense of guilt and shame into Christian vocabulary.

 

What to Say Instead

In place of saying you feel convicted, here are a few suggestions to better communicate that God is leading you to believe or do something:

  • I have a feeling that…
  • God is impressing on me that…
  • I feel convinced that…
  • I’m discerning that…
  • I feel God is telling me that…

These phrases mean the same thing that you’ve been trying to say with the word “convicted,” without the sense of guilt and shame that often accompanies the Christian life. The Gospel is about being acquitted, not convicted. To call yourself a Christian but continue to use this word is to deny the saving work of Jesus, and to bind the heart in guilt and shame. God has something much better planned for you—so it’s time to start using language to reflect that.

 

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