Guilt and Forgiveness

By Mark Krause

Guilt. Oh, how we manipulate our lives to avoid, deny, or relieve any sense of guilt! No one likes to feel guilty, but once we get the feeling, it has staying power. We need to do something to alleviate the burden of guiltiness.

Some people try to remove guilt by consulting a friend or therapist who tells them they’ve really done nothing wrong. But true guilt cannot be dismissed so easily, so the feeling lingers. Some seek a dialogue of forgiveness with the offended party. But this may be denied or impossible to us, so the guilt remains.

Perhaps the most common reaction (at least for men) is to give a gift as compensation. We argue with our wives, so we bring them flowers. We offend our coworkers, so we take them out to lunch. Too often, though, this maneuver appears shallow and insincere, so our peace offering backfires.

9communion6_JNThe Old Testament law of Moses knew a lot about guilt mitigation. The book of Leviticus contains the law for the “guilt offering.” This was a process of paying restitution plus a penalty to one who had been defrauded, and then the additional offering of an unblemished ram to the priest.

The problem with this approach was it was not scalable, and therefore, not equitable. A ram from the flock of a rich man with a hundred rams was not much of an offering compared to the man who had only one ram. It is the difference between the $10,000 fine levied against a professional basketball player who makes $20 million a year compared with an identical fine assessed against an assistant coach who makes $50,000 a year. The rich man gets off too easily.

A just penalty must have a cost that is felt. Guilt remains unrelieved unless a price is paid. This is not unnatural or neurotic. This is the way God made us. We experience guilt because we are out of synch with our Creator.

As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, may we appreciate both our great guilt and the great price that was paid for our forgiveness. Jesus, the innocent, perfect, guiltless Lamb of God, was “wounded for our transgressions, [and] . . . bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5, King James Version). A perfect penalty was paid on the cross of Calvary. His body was broken for our sins. His blood was shed to vanquish our guilt.

Let us examine our lives this morning and lay our cares and our guilt at the foot of the cross. Let us celebrate the reality that the Lamb of God takes away our sin through his blood.

Mark Krause serves as academic dean and professor of Bible with Nebraska Christian College in Papillion, Nebraska, and Crossroads College, Rochester, Minnesota.

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