Saturday, May 23, 2009

Guilt - What Is It Good For?

It seems that there are at least four (4) reasons why a weak view of sin develops both in our personal lives and within the body as a whole. The first reason seems to be an improper conclusion that grace nullifies the significance of sin in our lives. A second reason that leads to a weak view of sin is that we fail to grasp that sin (singular) is the issue rather than sins (acts). There is a third reason that a weak view of sin develops both in our personal lives and within the body of Christ, and that is we fail to be grieved over the principle of sin still embedded within us The fourth and final reason that a weak view of sin develops is … … we fail to see that sin is against God and not simply or merely that we feel guilty or that we are afraid of its consequences First of all, almost no one, at least no one that I know likes to feel guilty. Why do we feel guilty? Where does guilt come from? Listen to modern psychology’s answer: “Guilt is the inability to forgive oneself for a perceived wrongdoing. Perceived wrongdoing means that you believe you have done something wrong. The wrongdoing may or may not have had negative consequences for yourself and/or others. If others were involved, they may or may not still be angry or hurt by the wrongdoing. A perceived wrongdoing may be an action, a thought or a feeling. If the wrongdoing was an action, you probably think of it as a mistake. You feel guilty for the wrongdoing because you cannot forgive yourself for it. You cannot let it go. If you cannot forgive yourself, you will not overcome the guilt.” What does the bible say? Biblically guilt is that state of a moral agent after the intentional or unintentional violation of a law or principle established by God. Guilt is personal responsibility. Guilt carries with it the concept of deserved punishment or payment due. Now what clouds the issue is the wrongful interchanging of the terms guilt and guilty feelings. Guilt is an after the fact reality or state that may or may not be accompanied by guilty feelings. Guilt is recognizing that you have sinned, you in fact have violated a law or principle of God, so guilt is not what you feel but it is what you are. Guilty feelings on the other hand are a conglomerate of emotions that usually include anxiety in anticipation of punishment or consequences, shame with the sense of humiliation, dirtiness with the need or desire to hide, depression (which is pride). Believe it or not, guilty feelings do have some value. They stem from the fact that we are aware that we have violated some standard or value system, whether it is, God’s law, federal or state law, society’s norms, or our parents rules, and etc. They (guilty feelings) are to lead us to correction, by way of recognition, taking personal responsibility, confession, restitution, and etc. Most of the time people try to eradicate guilty feelings by escaping, evading, or killing the feelings causing the pain. So, when we sin many times we are only concerned about how the sin will affect us. By this I mean I don’t like the feeling that comes with the awareness that I have sinned, guilt feelings – I am afraid of the consequences, loss of money, health, reputation, material possessions, and even freedom – or we are afraid of the chastisement of God. But those are not the foremost things we should be concerned about. We should be concerned about how our sin affects God. I want to quote from Jerry Bridges book, Respectable Sins: "The more important issue is how our sin affects God. Someone has described sin as cosmic treason … when we sin we violate the law of God in any way, be it ever so small in our eyes, we rebel against the sovereign authority and transcendent majesty of God. To put it bluntly, our sin is an assault on the majesty and sovereign rule of God. It is indeed cosmic treason."[1]
Well, there you have it - four (4) reasons why sin develops and is alive and well in both our personal lives and within our own church body or fellowship. I hope that you have benefited from this little examination of the principle of sin rather than just considering sin as acts of little or no consequence. If it has been helpful at all or if you choose to challenge some ideas please feel free to comment! God bless you!
[1] Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges, Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007, pp. 26-27

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