Are You Feeling Guilty?
There are two kinds of guilt in the Bible. There is the feeling of guilt when our conscience condemns us—subjective guilt. There is also guilt for doing something objectively wrong. This guilt isn’t a feeling; it is a state of being that results from having sinned. It is the criminal that is pronounced guilty by the judge – objective guilt. The word “guilt” is found 79 times in the New King James Version. Seventy-eight times it refers to objective guilt. Once it refers to someone feeling guilty (Zechariah 11:5). The Bible uses the word “conscience” in association with the subjective feeling of guilt. The word “conscience” is found 30 times in the NKJV, and only in the New Testament. When our conscience accuses us (Romans 2:15), we feel guilty.
The work of Jesus eliminates guilt of both kinds. First, the offering of Jesus blood eliminates objective guilt for those who believe and obey the gospel. Jesus said, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Peter said to the guilty in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Second, our guilty conscience is also cleansed by Jesus. Hebrews 9:14 states, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” This means that holding onto guilt is a choice we make for irrational reasons. Moreover, guilt prevents us from doing God’s work of evangelizing the lost. Let go of guilt, and get to work.
If we are feeling guilty about our past forgiven sins, then we are doing so for irrational reasons. Let’s think about some of those irrational reasons.
First, we may feel guilty due to self-blame. Some confuse blaming self with taking responsibility. Self-blame is really a mechanism to excuse oneself from responsibility. We tell ourselves, “I am guilty of [some wrong],” so I better not do [some right]. After all, I don’t want to be a hypocrite!” The truth is: you are a hypocrite for doing what is wrong. To stop being a hypocrite you need to do what is right. Guilt due to self-blame fails to act. Stop feeling guilty and get to work.
Second, we may feel guilty due to false standards. Those suffering from eating disorders often set up false standards of acceptance. They feel guilty when they eat because they tell themselves that eating will make them fat, and they will be rejected. False standards of acceptance are irrational, but it isn’t guilt that is the problem, but the false standard. Eliminate the false standard, and the guilt will disappear.
Third, we may feel guilty to control others. Some express feeling guilty to manipulate others to act like they want them to act. This brings false validation, and means that they don’t value themselves correctly. Such manipulation is sinful and irrational. The Christian’s validation and worth comes from Jesus.
The feeling of guilt is an emotion that we control. Others do not make us feel guilty; we make ourselves feel guilty. We must take ownership of our own behaviors, including our guilt, by handling them correctly through Jesus. Unbridled guilt robs us of peace, joy, love, and contentment. Trust Jesus, and let go of guilt.