Most of us feel guilty from time to time. I am sure that Mr & Mrs McCann are tormented at times with guilt as they wish that they could turn the clock back and that they had not left those lovely children alone for the short time that they did. I am not suggesting that they should feel guilty for most of us have done what they did. We left our children safely at a short distance from us and, thankfully, no harm came to them. As our children grow up we need to extend their freedom and we trust and pray that no harm comes to them or that we have not allowed them too much freedom too soon. If harm comes we blame ourselves and can always see what we should have done ‘in hindsight’.
There are times when it is right to feel guilty. If we have genuinely wronged someone guilt is the God given mechanism that warns us that ‘action needs to be taken’. Sometimes we can rectify the problem and make amends. Other times it is outside of our power to reverse the effect of our actions. It is only right that we should fix the problems that we have caused where possible.
Having said this, many mistakes in life are not really significant in the general scheme of things and will not make a big difference in our lives. Courtesy and true friendship, decency and honesty will however ensure that we behave in ways that are commendable.
A more worrying aspect of life is that of human beings and their relationship with God. In our current society we are in danger of being unaware that we have disobeyed our Creator (and therefore owner) and that he does not tolerate people who break his law. I was aware from childhood of the fact that God had stated his principles (the 10 commandments in the Bible) and that I was incapable of living up to them. The passage in the Bible that explains God’s standards is Exodus 20. The New Testament passage that states that we are not capable of living up to these standards is Romans 3:23 ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’.
Now, contrary to public opinion God gave his Law to make us feel guilty and not to make us feel good. The Bible says ‘Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God’. The reality is that when you and I hear the Bible preached and become aware that God is holy and has his standards; we then realise that we cannot live up to his standards and get feelings of guilt. I lied, I lusted, I took something that did not belong to me (time, emotions, things etc) and as a result I am guilty and am limited as to what I can do to rectify the situation. My offence is firstly against God (Psalm 51:4) and will also often be against a fellow human being.
So we all need to go on a guilt trip – but not for long. When the awareness of our wrong living is heightened and guilt is triggered we will be forced do something about it. That is God’s plan.
What can we do? Again God in the Bible tells us what there is no point in doing! God says in Romans 3:20 that no action on our part will satisfy him because our problem is one we were born with (Psalm 51:5). The problem is reflected in our actions and behaviours but it is deeper than that. God says rather bluntly in the Old Testament that all the right things we do are like filthy clothes. We can never be good enough for God, ‘There is none righteous, no not one’.
I say again ‘what can we do’? The answer again comes from God. He says ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’. The Lord Jesus says ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. The early Christian preachers preached ‘neither is their salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved’. God’s Son (The Lord Jesus) came to earth, lived and then was put to death on a cross. God was punishing him for sin, sin that he did not commit (for he is God and perfect) but that sin that he was prepared to atone for. He paid the price God demanded to put away sin and to provide forgiveness for us.
Go on a guilt trip? No way - admit your guilt to God and then accept his offer of salvation through trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. You will experience inexplicable joy.