Overwhelmed By Guilt

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” ‭John‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Guilt is a complex topic because it involves both subjective elements (opinions or preferences) and objective elements (facts and truth). Subjectively, feelings of guilt are a universal phenomenon. We approach guilt in a variety of ways through religious confession, psychological therapy, self help, and so on. As human beings, we want to erase our personal experiences of guilt and regret. As God’s image-bearers, we feel overwhelmed with guilt whenever we are aware we have disappointed God. Scripture alludes to guilty feelings in many places, especially in the Psalms. In today’s reading from John, Jesus confronts a woman about her adultery. She confesses it to Jesus after He encounters her at a well during the middle of the day. She acknowledges her sin of having been intimate with several men. It is not stated as “guilt,” but we can conclude the feeling is guilt because she is coming to get water at an uncomfortably hot time of day when others would typically not be around to stare and point at her.

Feelings of guilt are an acknowledged reality. We must admit our objective guilt is far more important than our subjective experience of it. In the first place, guilty feelings do not always correspond to our actual, guilty situation. Many of us are plagued by guilt because we think we have broken God’s law even when we haven’t, and there are others who are actually guilty of violating God’s commands are not bothered in their violations. Repeated indulgence in sin can deaden one’s conscience to the point where it is all too easy to call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20).

In the final analysis, true guilt results from us violating the objective standards of God. Guilty feelings help us become aware of violating God’s standards. Whether we “feel” guilty or not, all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Let us take time today to repent of our sin and acknowledge the truth that God forgives us. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to make us hate sin so our conscience will be stricken with disgust and sorrow each time we violate God’s law. May we all strive to imitate the holiness of Jesus and hate sin just as God does.
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn