Guilt is one of the most devastating forces in this world. It leads some people to severe depression and hopelessness that can often end in suicide. Guilt hurts; it steals our happiness and constantly whispers a reminder to us that we’ve done wrong. Guilt can dominate our hearts and minds and cripple us from living life and taking care of our responsibilities. No one likes guilt; no one is lining up to tell guilt what an impact he’s had on our lives and get him to sign our book.
Guilt is something we run from. Some people try to escape its clutches by running to drugs and alcohol. Some try to drown in a world of movies, reality TV shows, and best-sellers. Others isolate themselves from others who seem like they’ve got it together because those people only serve to aggravate the guilt. Still others lash out in violent anger to get a release for their guilt. There are a myriad of ways people try to deal with guilt, but one way I think American Christians often try to deal with their guilt is with more work.
If a man feels the guilt of speaking insensitively to his wife, he will often pick up some extra chores around the house or cook dinner for the family, not out love for the wife necessarily, but as a way to try and atone for his own guilt. A woman may go two days without praying or reading the Bible, and in response make sure to spend double the time praying and reading for the next two days, not out of love for Jesus, but as an attempt to atone for her guilt. I think one of the reasons we have so many people who stand at intersections with signs that read “Hungry-Need a Meal” is because guilt-laden people give as way to feel better about the things they’ve done wrong; as an attempt to atone for their guilt.
We’ve all done something to this effect and we’ve all found that the feeling of guilt remains. Our attempts at trying to atone for our own guilt don’t cut it because as David says in Psalm 25:11, our guilt “is great”. Listen closely church, the reality of our guilt should never be the reason we work or do more. Rather, the reason why we work and do more should be that our guilt has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Faith in this reality should be what motivates us to work and do more. Jesus has dealt with our guilt in full and there is nothing we can add to his achievement. In fact, to try and add to it is to try and rob God of the glory of doing everything necessary to save us. We say we believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christi alone, so let’s stop living like we believe our work is a part of that equation.