Tag Archive: guilt

The Basis of Forgiveness

… is a recognition
1. of my own sin. These days it is unpopular to consider personal guilt; it is approached more like a neurosis than a moral fact. But all mankind displays this tendency to sin. No amount of education or social engineering can change that.
2. God really has forgiven me. This incredible gift is given not because I earned it, but because of His love for me.
3. Universal guilt also means we can’t brag about how much better we are, and none can judge. The Christian lives purely by God’s grace., and this is key if we are to avoid a holier-than-thou attitude.
4. As we live in this forgiveness, our hearts start to change for the better in practical fact. And that is just plain incredible.


Guilty Christians?

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me”.
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Why do Christians still struggle with feelings of guilt?

I think it’s because we continue to judge ourselves and our motives. Being the imperfect humans we are, we always come up short. It robs us of the joy we should expect as Christians.

Many blame this guilt on organized religion, but I think that’s throwing the baby out with the bath water. I think the problem actually lies deep within our own hearts.

We are still trying to justify ourselves. When we judge ourselves or others, we are measuring our performance as the indicator of our spirituality. This kind of justification is not by grace, but still on works; our own or others. We have fallen from grace, literally.

Why would we even want to go there? His justification is free. Might it be because in justifying ourselves we can still feel we are our own boss? We desperately want to call our lives our own.

True grace and who’s really in charge of our life are two sides of the same coin. We can’t hope for His grace without submitting to the death of our own agendas, for that is what making Him Lord in our lives really means: what He wants must become more important than what I want.

What counts now is simply a decision to please Him in obedience to His revealed will, and the daily seeking of the grace to do so. We may take it as a given that we will act out of (at best) mixed motives, but God has forgiven us. We can’t change our hearts; that’s His business.

Give Him your life, do your best, and trust Him as your justifier. And stop beating yourself up.

Wouldn’t it be great to not lie awake at night steaming about slights and offences, just to be able to let it all go? To get rid of that angry, burning knot in your stomach? It’s possible – but how?

I think that to really forgive others we have to first acknowledge our own guilt and need of grace. We have hurt God, offending against His law every time we put ourselves and our own interests above those of a loving God or our neighbour. It cost God the death of His own Son to put it right – the only way He could show us the mercy we needed while still remaining just.  When we finally get this we can understand what it cost God to purchase our own reconciliation – and the undeserved forgiveness offered to us.

In our politically correct, self-actualizing, all-about-me world, that really runs against the grain. But it’s just common sense if you take a minute to think about it: if we offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us on any other basis, we’re telling ourselves (whether we’ll admit it or not) we’re better than them, and so pass judgement on them. And if we go there, we may ask ourselves if we really have forgiven them.

God has done this wonderful thing for us, and we are commanded to do likewise for the people in our own lives. We can’t forgive on any other basis, and it’s frankly easier to forgive when you realize you’ve blown it too. It’s humbling in the best sort of way.

A Prisoner of Hope

I guess I’m an optimist.

When I look at the world and see the wonders around us, it simply takes my breath away. We live in a world of beauty, one of value and meaning. I have to believe our lives mean something. I feel little affinity with those who tell us we are just a random collection of atoms bumping into one another; that beauty and truth are things we made up in our heads, that creation is made only to be exploited.

We live in a world of value. Things matter. People matter, matter infinitely.

You Are Important

You’re really something. I mean that. Every single person has a story, has hopes, dreams and desires: and in our heart of hearts we believe our lives are significant. We feel it in our bones, and even when we suspect life is really futile something inside us rises up and says that it’s got to count for something.

When I look at old home movies or photographs of friends and events past, I feel a sense of history, of significance, of my passage through life. Even though I’m just one of billions that draw breath on this planet, I feel this personal history pressing down on me, telling me my life means something: and so then does every other person’s life. I sense the meaning of others as they move through time; everyone has a story to tell. We are all precious and valuable. Our lives and memories are somehow important.

Is this feeling, this intuitive understanding really just a chemical process going on in our heads, or does it speak of some other reality? What is it that actually makes us significant? For generations we’ve been told we are the result of random processes, that we are accidents of nature. They tell us we really amount to nothing; and against all our natural inclinations we have swallowed the lie.

Along that line of thought lie significant implications in our daily lives. If there is no such thing as real value (for therein lies any hope of defining right and wrong), then there is no sense blaming someone who acts wilfully against a fellow human. The torturer and the saint are equal in their nonvalue if both are the result of irrational processes, both merely the effects of blind cause. In fact, if we really believe in nothing but cause and effect, we have no choice in anything, because we are all merely and exclusively the results of chance. The murderer can pin everything on his poor upbringing, and is no more blameworthy than a rock crushing some unfortunate that happened to be walking by when it fell.

If there is no blame, then we are free to follow our impulses, because they carry no moral weight and are as senseless as any other random event. And herein lies a possible motive for supporting such a bleak theory: if there is no right or wrong, then there’s nothing wrong in indulging in hate, rage, lust, or greed – or love. It’s all the same, and we can reject the judgements of others because we have deemed ourselves free of any moral obligations. We can act entirely based on impulse without a care about the consequences beyond those immediately relevant to our own lives, because we answer to nobody besides ourselves. A child might, for instance, refrain from bullying someone smaller – not because it’s wrong, but because the intended victim has a big brother.

I’m not dismissing causes and how they may affect us. Certainly a child raised in a violent, unloving home will be more prone to antisocial behaviour than one raised with love; but he can choose to follow the impulse to anger, or to refuse it. He may have a tougher row to hoe, but once he admits moral responsibility he admits he has choices. In the final analysis, if we believe in free will, we must believe in moral behaviour and personal responsibility.

Everyone’s Important

So we sense our significance. You are important; we must remember that everyone else is too.  In C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce, one of the characters arrives on The Other Side and is initially pleased to learn that he will be as famous in heaven as he was on earth. Then he learns to his dismay that everyone else there is famous as well… and the shine’s off the penny. He lived for the comparison, for having pride of place amongst his fellows.

Again, what gives us value? We will examine this a little later, but it will suffice now to qualify the term, and to keep it in mind as we continue. What I’m getting at is what would be called intrinsic value; that is, something whose value is not a matter of opinion, and whose significance would still be intact even if there was nobody around to appreciate it.

In the world of investment, real estate has intrinsic value because it possesses value that goes beyond mere opinion: you can live on it, and if it’s big enough, you can grow food on it. It is a physical object that you can see and feel. That’s why it’s called real estate. It is a real, physical thing. Publicly owned stocks, on the other hand, are largely based on what people think they’re worth. During the dot-com boom of the late 1990’s, many stocks had their values artificially inflated as public speculation ran wild, with no basis in reality, no “bricks and mortar” behind them. In the bust that followed, many found their stocks virtually worthless. Another example would be a rare baseball card. It’s value is tied up exclusively in the fact that everyone who collects wants it; but all it is is a piece of card stock with a bit of ink on it. Its practical value is almost zero. You could perhaps kindle a fire with it, or use it to spread some butter on a piece of toast, but that’s about it.

This is really an apt metaphor for the two worldviews. The bill of goods that we’ve been sold for the last hundred years or so is that we are just the result of random causes. If that’s so, it follows our value as humans is just a matter of opinion, and that there is no real, self-contained value. Like the baseball card, our importance depends on purely others’ opinion of us, and of what use we are to them.  But there will be no talking about being valuable just because you’re human.

One may disagree with this… but really, think about it. If we are only the result of random causes, the best we can do is say our sense of value is an evolved instinct, and that says nothing about actual value, but merely convenience. We’re told we “evolved” this instinct because it had promoted the survival of the species, and well it might; but is says nothing about our real worth or (for that matter) any moral truth. Why then the outrage at bigotry, at genocide, betrayal and child abuse?

Simple: because they are wrong. Fundamentally, intrinsically wrong, and these things would be wrong even if the world never existed.

If we believe in the intrinsic value of people, then we are more like real estate: our value isn’t just a matter of opinion. We have real significance that goes beyond anyone’s estimation of our worth. We are valuable. Every one of us.

And that is a great antidote for despair. Take heart: you are important. You are valuable. You matter. Instead of being captive to all that negativity, you can be hope’s prisoner.