“If you have guilt in your life, just get rid of it so you can get on with your life,” stated a vice president of a midwestern state university, giving a pep talk to faculty about life and careers. Although this high-ranking official recognized how detrimental guilt can be in our lives, she did not mention repentance as a way to get rid of it.
None of us like to feel guilty – the realization or belief that we have done something wrong, and the feeling that we will suffer consequences for our actions. And yet we will all experience guilt in our lives because of our fallen, sinful nature – our propensity to sin and our inability to keep the law perfectly. Thanks to Jesus, we can become free of guilt, but we must be able to distinguish between TRUE GUILT and FALSE GUILT.
We experience TRUE GUILT when we commit true sin, because the Holy Spirit convicts us of that sin – an offense against God and probably our fellow man. When we repent, we are forgiven, and restored to a right relationship with our Lord. Our Lord then wipes that sin off of the books, for He is merciful and loving:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in mercy… He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor punish us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His mercy for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8-12
Of course there may be temporal consequences to our sin. If we rob a bank, even if we repent, we may go to prison. (Our governmental legal system is not as forgiving as our gracious Lord.)
We experience FALSE GUILT when we feel badly because someone – perhaps a loved one, a friend, our boss, or the culture, wants us to do something that is unnecessary or even wrong. Perhaps they claim you need to purchase a new car, a bigger house, a fancy vacation, etc. because your neighbors (the Joneses) have one, and that you are A BAD AND UNCARING PERSON if you do not comply with their wishes.
Another example of false guilt is the notion that white people should feel guilty of racism because four hundred years ago white people enslaved black people in this nation. Although we should try to make amends for past atrocities and injustices, we cannot be guilty of something we did not do.
Guilt Can Become Our Worst Enemy When:
· FALSE GUILT – We feel pressure from others to do certain things that are unnecessary or wrong, but do not have the discernment and courage to reject it because it is false and often a manipulation. So we give in to their wishes, or resist and live a life of guilt, condemned by their (Godless) value system.
· TRUE GUILT – We experience true guilt, but are unwilling to repent to get rid of the sin in our lives (which would eliminate the guilt).
Guilt Can Become Our Best Friend When:
· We know the difference between true guilt and false guilt and just dismiss false guilt, for it is fake, and a reflection on our loved one, friend, boss, or culture.
· We realize true guilt is like a flashing warning sign that we are about to step off the narrow path that leads to Heaven, onto the wide path that leads to the Lake of Fire. So we repent, make things right, and get back on the narrow path. If we ignore the warning signs, or can’t distinguish between true guilt and false guilt, we will be on the wrong path, headed for perdition.
Not sure if what you are experiencing is true or false guilt? Hold it up to our Lord: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Given how our culture has become increasingly post-Christian, pressures will increase on Christians to conform to a godless culture. Therefore, it is critical that we spend time with our Lord each day so that we will be discerning and able to cope with true and false guilt.
Everyone we meet has to deal with guilt, and are doing so with varying degrees of success. So let us help them with their struggle to discern and dismiss false guilt, and repent of true guilt, so they may be free from the shackles of sin and experience the joy and love of our Lord.
To God be the glory