Feelgoodism

Written by Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.

I know that word does not pass the spell check test. It is not even in the dictionary – but it ought to be. If Mr. Webster, or whoever is in charge of adding new words to dictionaries, wishes to add my contribution to our language, he can feel free to copy and paste it along with my definition:

Feelgoodism (fil-gōd-is-m) >>
The doctrine that the prime purpose of Christianity is to make its adherents feel good, especially about themselves.

This “doctrine” is very pervasive and those to teach and practice it seem to be completely oblivious to being influenced by it. Here are a few times when people show they are subtlety affected for it:

  1. When attendants at church services are mostly there to hear something to feel good about.
  2. When preachers/teachers feel their best when their hearers feel best about themselves.
  3. When one allows “feeling good” to trump plain Bible teaching.

Should Christians not want to feel good and cause others to feel good, after all, “gospel” means good news or glad tidings? But, is that what their major should be?

Consider the preaching/teaching done in both both testaments. “Repentance” was the recurring theme because repentance was the recurring need. Godly sorrow is a necessary ingredient in Scriptural repentance. (2 Cor. 7:10). One of the reasons the apostles received the Holy Spirit was to convict the world of sin. (John 16:8). Before one can repent, he must first feel bad about himself and his condition. Satan would like nothing more than to convince us to do only what makes us feel good rather than “what saith the Scriptures.” Feelgoodism plays right into his hands.

Often we hear good people emphatically declaring how sure they are of salvation. When asked how they can be so sure, they reference the good feeling they have in their hearts – without referencing a single verse of Scripture that would justify that feeling.

People often conclude that anything that makes them “feel so good” could not possibly be wrong. They feel that God wants them to be happy and what they are doing makes them happy – case closed.

The most frequent reason that I hear for forgiving a brother who has sinned against us, without his repenting and asking, is that it makes us feel so good for having done the magnanimous thing. But, the question needs to be raised about whether it is the Scriptural thing to do. And is it in the best interest of the offending party to be forgiven without repentance?

Forgiveness before repentance presents some real problems in applying various scriptures:

Luke 17:3: “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him”.

Matt. 18:16-18: “And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.” (ASV). At what point in this scenario is the offended party told to forgive him? At each juncture “if he hear” implies if he repents then forgiveness should take place with the matter settled. The idea is to hold him accountable until he hears (heeds) the rebukes rather than washing our hands by going ahead and forgiving him anyway.

1 Thessalonians 3:6: “… withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly” How do you withdraw from him if you have already forgiven him?

No doubt, part of the problem is that folks confuse deferring forgiveness with an unforgiving spirit, grudges, and hatred. Nothing is further from the truth. As we seek to bring one to repentance so he can be forgiven, we must sincerely want to forgive him, harbor no grudges, and love him even as we love ourselves. And when he does repent we will forgive and rejoice in with the angels in heaven.

Let us measure every facet of our lives as Christians by what the Bible teachers rather than how good or bad we may have come to feel about things. Hope can make us feel really good. So can false hope. We need to learn the difference by growing in our knowledge of God’s word.

May we always remember how deceptive our feelings can be: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV)

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