MESA WOMEN: Setting The Table | Guilt, Grace, and Gauchos

Written by Sharon Noble, Community Life Pastor

Guilty Pleasures...

What in the world do those include? Fake nails, chocolate at midnight, an overnight stay in a hotel without my husband and children, buying a new outfit on credit, or taking a nap when I should be working…all of which I have done?

Life is full of guilt and pleasure, so how do we navigate both – especially at the same time?!
I grew up in a culture where jeans were inappropriate on a Sunday morning. Dresses couldn’t be too short or heels too tall, unless you wanted your Christianity questioned. So, I learned the reality of “guilt” at a young age. However, my understanding was skewed a bit by the culture I was living in. After all, are you really “guilty” if you wear jeans on a Sunday morning?

When I was 13, I owned a pair of gauchos (wide pants that stop right below the knee) that I just loved! My favorite look was pairing the gauchos with a pair of toe socks that lined my skinny legs with stripes in every color under the sun. I looked good! One Saturday, a friend invited me to spend the night and the next morning, we went to her church. As I walked out of the house my friend’s mom said, “I am not sure they will let you in the church!” “Why?” I asked. “You are wearing pants!” she exclaimed. “I am not wearing pants. These are gauchos!” My friend’s church also had an unwritten rule that girls could not wear pants to church on Sunday mornings. For the church, it was an issue of respect. Nevertheless, it had become a limitation for entry to those more inclined to wear pants than a dress.

So, what is guilt?

If I felt guilty for wearing a pair of gauchos to church, how can we know what real guilt looks like? Perhaps our feelings are not always reliable.

The Bible tells us, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). In other words, all of us are guilty of sin. No one can stand in the presence of a perfect God because of sin - or in other words, our guilt - UNLESS we have asked Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Then, we are able to be in God’s presence because Jesus takes our place and He is perfect. “Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” Romans 3:24.
God’s Word is filled with instructions about how to live a righteous life (a right life) before him. He has established the rules that we need to live by and when those rules are broken, we are guilty before God. We need to go before God daily and ask for the forgiveness of our sins. 1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”  Scripture creates the guidelines by which we live. Anything outside that book is optional. Clearly, my gauchos and toe socks fell outside the guidelines of Scripture.

So, why did I feel guilty?

Sometimes, our culture – self, family, church, or even society – can make us feel a type of guilt for standards we (or they) have created outside of Scripture. It is important for us to know and understand God’s Word! We must clearly understand what God actually requires of us and where He gives us freedom in that. There is SO MUCH freedom in Christ! 

When I was 14, I wanted to go to the Homecoming Dance at my High School. A very cute boy asked me to go with him, so I approached my parents to ask for ther permission. My Dad said that he and Mom would think about it and get back to me. Can you guess what one of the standards was in our community of believers? Dancing was associated with non-Christian behavior. Granted, some dancing is certainly sinful, but this was a school dance with a strict dress code in an auditorium lined with chaperones! A few days later, my dad came back to me with their decision. He and Mom had agreed to let me choose whether or not to go. But, I should be aware that he could lose his job if I attended. You see, his employer had forbidden their staff, and their families, from participating in any kind of dancing. But, I had the best parents in the world! They understood what God’s Word said – and what fell outside of it. We lived in a challenging culture where there were many “rules” not found in scripture, and my parents were teaching me to see the difference between man’s traditions and God’s law. 

So…I chose to go! Thankfully, God protected my dad’s job. But, even if he had been fired, my earthly father had lovingly accepted that risk. Knowing he did that for me deepened my love for both him and my Heavenly Father.

When I think about a “Guilty Pleasure”...

...I think about something that makes me feel guilty in a way that isn’t really about God’s Law, but more about the standards that I have set for myself…like eating chocolate at midnight. It’s not the best choice if I want to maintain a healthy diet, but if I am only eating it once a month does it really matter in the end? Has it truly affected my waistline, or it is simply a periodic pleasure that I can enjoy because I am staying up late with my daughters and enjoying some time with them?  Isn’t the value of spending time with my daughters greater than the value of violating my “don’t eat after 8pm” rule that I set for myself? You see, those are decisions that God lets us make for ourselves! If I feel guilty about eating that chocolate, I feel guilty because it is a standard that I have set for myself and not one of God’s laws. After all, God created chocolate to be eaten!
That said, if I ate chocolate every night at midnight, it probably would not benefit my body. My guilty pleasure would now have negative consequences for my waistline. We need to be careful, ensuring that our guilty pleasures do not become unhealthy pleasures. After all, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” Again, even our pleasures need to line up with God’s Word and when we create standards for ourselves, let’s ask God to give us the strength to live by them AND the grace not to impose those personal choices on others.
I mentioned earlier that my Father worked for a Christian institution with strict rules about what Christian living looked like, and that was always a struggle for my parents. They were healthy Christians who believed that God’s Law was meant to give us freedom rather than restriction. They believed that God’s Word contained clear guidelines for how to live our lives in community with others and adding anything else onto God’s guidelines was dangerous. I appreciate how my parents navigated some tough situations we faced in that culture. Today, it feels like our Southern California culture has created so much freedom we often find ourselves faced with scenarios that fall outside God’s Word. Our temptation is to create a set of “rules” to help us distinguish between those following Christ and those not following Christ. We must be very careful, though. If we try to institutionalize our personal explanations of what God’s law looks like, especially in our churches, we may end up restricting entrance into the church – similar to the congregation I visited with my gauchos. We may prevent people from ever experiencing a healthy church firsthand! Let’s continue to study and know God’s Word so that His way of living will be our way of living. Then, let us seek God’s wisdom, compassion, and grace! “And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved” (2 Peter 3:15).
Father in Heaven,

We want to live righteous lives before you that reflect your son and the salvation He provides for all. Give us wisdom as we diligently try to live according to your Word. Give us compassion as we love people the way you love them. Give us the ability to show grace as you have shown grace to us. May everyone feel welcome as they walk through the Mesa Church doors!  

In the name of Jesus, Amen.

*All Scripture references are from the New Living Translation (NLT)
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Jennifer Webster - August 26th, 2022 at 1:20pm

Thank you for this article to we mesa women on guilty pleasures. Im wearing my first pair of gauchos this morning by GyMPeople… so comfortable. (no toe socks though! Lol! )… welcome back gauchos in church!

Sharon Noble - September 7th, 2022 at 10:31am

A fellow gaucho lover! Thank you Jennifer! Our desire is to welcome all women and men into the family of Mesa Church. and even more importantly, God's Family - no matter what they choose to wear or where they come from!