Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Plea? Not Guilty.

It's kind of ridiculous how quickly guilt can overtake me. In fact, the best way to manipulate me is by making me feel guilty (unless you happen to hit my stubborn streak in the process, in which case you may as well give up). This complex has caused me to have great difficulty in saying "no", the mentality that I have to try and make everyone happy, and an abhorrence for ever inconveniencing anyone. And probably a host of other issues as well--but I digress.

Unfortunately, using guilt as a form of manipulation within the Church is all too common, a practice that is both unhealthy and un-Biblical. Guilt tells us that we are failures, that we aren't good enough, holds the checklist of the law in front of our faces and declares us unworthy. I believe guilt is what Paul is referring to as "worldly sorrow" in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10:
"I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." 
So if worldly sorrow is guilt, what is godly sorrow? The term I would use is conviction, and it comes not from the world, but from the Holy Spirit living inside us. Conviction lets us know that our actions do not line up with our Father's character (and thus, our character, as His children) and causes us to repent, to change, to conform to the image of Christ. But it is essential to understand that conviction, or "godly sorrow", leaves no regret. In other words, the mistakes we made do not continue to haunt us, our past does not continue to plague us.

Guilt, however, brings death. It traps us in our old identity, keeping us from moving forward into our new lives in Christ. It reminds us of who we were, instead of encouraging us in who we are. We become so obsessed with looking back, we stop straining toward the hope that lies ahead. Guilt keeps us from experiencing the truth reiterated over and over in the New Testament: "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death," (Romans 8:1-2).

We have been made new. We have been set free. To live in guilt is to deny the gift God has given us. Your past has been washed in the blood of Jesus. Let it go; after all, God already has.

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