When it comes to emotions, the feeling of guilt is powerful. Our world today seeks to devalue it with statements like this, “Guilt is a destructive and ultimately pointless emotion.” Another writes, “Guilt is a useless feeling. It’s never enough to make you change direction – only enough to make you useless.” This seems to be the growing attitude in our society. The question is, are they right?
If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the
commandments of the Lord, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity.
To understand guilt, we need to separate it into two areas of thought. In the above verse, as well as Leviticus 6:4, the idea of guilty means to commit an offense, do a wrong. In one case, the person is unaware of his or her wrong doing, even so, they are guilty…they have sinned. The Mosaic Law, or any law for that matter, is a constant reminder of our rebellious tendencies and there is the point, at least in part, of law. Paul wrote, “I would not have known sin except through the law” (Romans 7:7). Martin Luther wrote, “The law’s true function, then, is to show us our sins, to make us guilty, to humble us, to kill us, to bring us down to hell, and finally to take away all help and all comfort…” This speaks of the other aspect of guilt; that is, a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some real or imagined offense.
Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance.
For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow
of the world produces death.
2nd Corinthians 7:9-10
Instead of guilt, the Holy Spirit guides Paul to use the words “godly sorrow.” The word speaks of sorrow, pain and grief attributed to an awareness that one has hurt God and His people (Note Leviticus 6:1-4). Someone once said, “When you are guilty, it is not your sins you hate, but yourself.” This guilt would drive the worshiper to sacrifice under the Old Law, which would include making restitution when necessary. Today, the pain of guilt is intended to lead us towards God with a repenting heart, for when we do, salvation is at hand and regret can be replaced with grace and mercy. Thank you God, for making hope through Christ possible.