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serving jesus christ the king

Embracing Guilt

Last week the column was way too long – so long that they hadn’t room for the last two paragraphs. Shame, because they were the important two. But I’ve no-one else to blame but myself. And at least I can rectify the situation this week.

I had been talking about an episode of the hospital drama ‘ER’ in which a well-meaning chaplain tries to help a patient struggling with a guilty conscience. The chaplain is of the opinion that guilt exists only in the mind. The patient won’t buy it – he wants “a real chaplain who believes in a real God and in a real Hell.”

And I commented – Without acknowledging a real God and a real Hell there is no help for those with a guilty conscience.

That sentence needs explaining, but that was the cut off point of the article. So here’s the rest (with a little expansion).

Why do we need God? And why does it not help to deny the existence of Hell?

Guilt is real. We know someone has to pay. There’s something in the way we are made that makes us know. It’s why we look over our shoulder when we’ve done something wrong. So it doesn’t help to deny the reality of guilt, or the punishment that awaits the guilty. It simply doesn’t answer the question. And more than that – it kills off the only hope of answer.

You see, the irony is that the solution to guilt is found in the very things that people want to deny in an effort to sort out their guilt.

The real God (Jesus) went through the real Hell (facing punishment on the cross) so that guilty people could come to him and ask him to accept them and forgive them.

The answer is not to run from guilt, but run to it, and embrace it. Accept it. Claim it as your own. Three of the most liberating words are, “I am guilty”. Once you acknowledge that to God, you are in a position to find the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers.

He has been punished so that we might never be. And so he is the one we need to run to with our guilt. When we do, he says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).