Jesus on the cross 2
In an old book entitled, Unhappy Secrets of the Christian Life, Tim Stafford talks about the nature of guilt. He writes,

“The instrument that tells you that you’re guilty is usually called the conscience. It communicates through your emotions and warns you when there is a problem in your life. It is very much like your body’s pain-sensing system…. When you cut your finger, the cut, dripping blood, is an indisputable fact. Anyone can see that it needs attention. But the pain that comes with the cut makes it urgent.

“Your conscience is designed to respond the same way to sin. If something is obviously wrong in your life, you need to deal with it. Guilty feelings force your attention onto the sore spot, making you drop everything else until you deal with it. It is God’s way of making you feel the same way about sin that He feels about it.” (p. 46-47)

I appreciate that perspective…but it leaves me with a question: If the remedy for a cut finger is a Band-Aid or a few stitches, what is the proper remedy for guilt? What needs to be done to set right the wrongs we have done?

As far as I can tell, there are 3 possibilities:

Ignore it. This certainly seems to work for some people. But actually, the people I know who use this strategy effectively are people whose consciences have become so calloused or so dead that they have stopped feeling for others and have stopped caring about what pain their wrongs do to themselves or to others.

Fix it yourself. This seems to be the strategy used by most people. We try to make up for our wrongs by doing enough good things to weight the scale on the side of our goodness rather than on the side of our badness. But where does this leave us? It leaves us under constant pressure to do enough good deeds to make up for our faults and failures, or to hide enough of our wrongs and struggles so as to fool ourselves or others into thinking we are better than we really are. Either way, we are left with an impossible task. No matter how hard we try to do good and to cover up our wrongs and our struggles, we cannot fix it ourselves.

Be forgiven. The Bible teaches that God did something about sin that I could not do. The best I could hope for is to do enough good things to outweigh my wrongs. But the Bible teaches that when Jesus died on the cross He didn’t just do a good enough deed to outweigh the bad things I have done over the years. The Bible teaches that on the cross Jesus actually took our sins upon Himself. Sin destroys life. Sin kills. Because Jesus took our sins upon Himself, our sins killed Him. But in taking our sins and by dying from them, His death took our sin away from us.

The remedy for the pain of guilt is not to ignore it or to try to fix it ourselves. The remedy is Jesus’ forgiveness. In Jesus’ death, sin and guilt and judgment were overcome by that which is greater than them. Sin and guilt and judgment were overcome by the immense love of God.

Forgiveness is the only real remedy to the pain of guilt.


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