For many, guilt seems like a plague, a blanket of shame that covers us and makes us feel horrible. In researching the Scriptures, I am finding that the common concept of guilt is often tainted and incorrect.
The idea of ‘guilt’ is that there is a ‘cause’ that brings a feeling of blameworthiness. Some would be more culpable if they know to do good, and yet fail. Others would be less at fault if they had no knowledge of the wrongness of the thought or action.
The idea of guilt brings most often the need to ‘make good’ through some kind of punishment, self inflicted, society inflicted, or God inflicted. Often the person feels that inner need to repay, remunerate, compensate for what was done. Of course, crime needs punishment, sin has consequences. Yet, the cause of the guilt is often not a sin, and even sins can be forgiven by grace, unmerited favor.
The ‘debt’, that the action bringing the guilt incurred, is sought by the person to be paid. The remuneration for the cause of the ‘guilt’ can be eternal, if the wrong price is always paid, and the guilt remains after what the person thought was full payment. An inner disease of the soul is the eternal attempt to repay for an imagined, or misconceived guilt felt by the person. Years of feeling the guilt, years of trying to repay, years of hanging one’s head in shame and depression is not God’s plan for a Christian.
In different societies, they use a whip to inflict self pain, or walk on coals of fire to pay the price for their guilt. Some in our society spend their lives constantly attacking the inner guilt by denial of its wrongness. They argue with those who feel ‘abortion’ is wrong. They mock and verbally attack anyone who says that there are things that are ‘sinful’ to all. That is guilt trying to alleviate itself, and the payment there chosen is ‘denial’.
Others bear the guilt, and walk in an inner shame that plagues their lives. This inner guilt feeling sometimes is manifest by anger, sometimes by fear, sometimes by extreme depression, and sometimes by withdrawal.
The idea of ‘blameworthiness’ is Scriptural. For we are told that ‘all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ Also, the Bible tells us that ‘there is none righteous, no not one.’ So, the fact of ‘guilt’ having to be upon us is very Scriptural. The Biblical concept of guilt is that there are ethical, moral, and holy principles from God that are put upon His creation. This kind of guilt is to be alleviated by God’s plan for salvation from guilt.
God uses guilt to bring us to salvation in His grace. He uses guilt to steer us from great sins, making the little sins that would steer us into greater sin to guide us toward His mercy and love. The devil misuses guilt to make the forgiven to still feel deserving of penalty, and the devil seeks to get them to self inflict that punishment. Society tries to make one feel guilty for sins of a spouse, of a child, of a sibling, or of the parent. The guilt that a parent can put on a child, blaming them for the marriage troubles, blaming them for their economic distress, making a child to feel inferior to another sibling in educational achievement, can trouble the child for decades.
It is time to look into the Word of God for help on this crisis of guilt.
Psalm 38:13-18 (KJV)
13 But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.
14 Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.
15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.
16 For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.
17 For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.
18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
When the Holy Spirit is free to reveal to the sinner their sins, the guilt is felt and realized, then the Spirit can lead the sinner to the eradication of that guilt. The catharsis (cleansing) of that guilt can be done by the Spirit of God. Realization of the guilt is a first step to this catharsis process. Denial or ignorance of guilt would allow the damage of guilt to continue.
Psalm 40:1-2 (KJV)
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
As one turns to Jesus, Who died for our guilt and sin, the Lord then removes them from the pit of guilt, from the clinging guilt that has doomed us to despair. The realization of the horrible guilt within causes one to seek deliverance, and the Lord is there to set our feet upon the Rock, establish our goings.
Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)
28 Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
The weight of guilt makes us weary, yoked in bondage, ignorant of any way to escape the guilt. The guilty would shed it if they could. They go to psychiatrists, but are only relieved by the deadening of the guilt feelings by medicines which deaden all sensibilities. Jesus has a different yoke to give us, one of peace and forgiveness. We may remember our sins, our failures, our troubles. Yet, His yoke is light and easy. His yoke is the peace of forgiveness, and a relationship with the One Who has died and has paid the penalty for our guilt. In the catharsis of guilt, the yoke of guilt, is replaced by the loving relationship with Jesus, our Savior.
Matthew 26:28 (KJV)
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
The words " remission of sins", does not mean simply pardon of sins, as it is often understood. Rather, it means the complete removal, i.e. the taking away of sins.
Not only is the guilt removed, but also the very nature of sin, and the pollution of the soul by it. The remission of sins includes justification, i.e. the making of one as though they had never sinned.
The remission of sins also includes a sanctification, i.e. the setting of the person into right standing with God. That is the restoration from guilt that the Lord alone can offer.
Judas had this sanctification, this justification, and this removal of the nature of sin in his person. Jesus had told him and the other disciples that their names were written in heaven. Yet, his choice of seeking and appreciating money more than Jesus, led him back into guilt and shame. The sudden awareness of the change led him to commit suicide.
In this world today, we can do the opposite from what Judas did. We can rather, as guilty sinners, come to Jesus and let Him remove our guilt, let Him give us remission of sins, and let us enter into a peace that passes all understanding.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (KJV)
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
We are to be freed from guilt, be made wise in the Lord, enjoy His righteousness to clothe us, and are to be separated unto Him from the former sins. Thereby we have received redemption from the burden of guilt. This catharsis process should lead us to glorifying the Lord. The change is dramatic, wonderful, miraculous, and totally grace from the Lord. We should glory in its magnificent change upon us.
Romans 3:19-25 (KJV)
19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
All the world bears guilt. All the world has sinned. All the world needs Jesus for He is the only redemption, the only justification from guilt that there is. Mankind looks for distractions from guilt, for drugs to deaden the feelings of guilt, for others to tell them they should not feel guilt, and yet, they are ‘guilty before God’ unless they receive the free justification that removes guilt. This healing catharsis has removed guilt and shame of former sins. It can then allow us to be spiritually healthy and well in the Lord. It is a glorious healing we all need to have claimed in Jesus.