If you have ever felt guilty, you will agree with me that it is fantastic news to know that you can live, thanks to Jesus, without guilt! But this may not be as simple as it sounds.
When we first arrived in Australia we purchased a little car so I could go to work independently of my husband, who also needed a car. It was old, but brilliant.
It drove really well. However, the speedometer showed miles per hour, while the street signs pointed to km/h. Up till then I had never had to use a measuring system that used miles. So, when I sat in my little car to go to work, I was not sure how fast I was going. I knew enough to know that if I drove 60 m/h that would be too fast. So, I tried keeping under.
I was a busy young mum in a new country, trying to get my bearings, and this detail was not so important. In a few days though, I checked properly and found out that 60 km/h equals about 37m/h, so I made sure that my speed was just under
37 m/h, because I like to obey the law.
I was quite surprised when some weeks later I received two letters in the mail which said that on such-and-such-a-day (my first day of driving that car!) I was going too fast, and therefore I needed to pay a penalty.
I was not particularly excited about losing $A160 and my husband suggested I write a letter explaining the situation.
I felt like it was not really my fault that this camera caught my car exceeding the speed limit. I tried to explain my background; that it was my first time driving a car that had mileage on it. It was kind of the fault of the car, and those who sold it to me. There should have been a km/h speedometer, and then I would have been okay!
I received a negative reply. I needed to either pay the fine or go to court and plead my case. My husband advised me to go to court.
Only a few weeks before one year lapsed, when my case would have been automatically dismissed, I had a knock on the door: two policemen.
“How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”
Well, of course, “Not guilty.”
“If you plead ‘not guilty’ you need to get a lawyer.”
“A lawyer?! What for?”
“Did you drive the car on the day at the speed that shows on the ticket?”
“Yes, but . . .”
“Then you are legally guilty, and if you wish to plead the ‘not guilty’ case, you must hire a lawyer. If you plead ‘guilty’ then you can come and explain yourself to the judge and he may forgive you, or you may still have to pay the fine.” This was their parting advice.
It was a great lesson to me about what it means to be legally guilty.
When the Bible talks about guilt, it mostly talks about legal guilt. That’s how it can say that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 23:23) and deserve the death penalty. We’ve all driven faster than the sign says, whether we know it or not. We’ve all had evil thoughts, taken things that do not belong to us, disrespected our parents—killed, whether we are aware of it or not (have you ever killed an insect?). We are all legally guilty before God.
I ended up going to court. When you go before a judge, your great reasons why you did something wrong seem insignificant. I lost a day of work and had to pay the fine.
But for our sins, we don’t need to pay anything. Jesus paid it all! Roman 3:24 says we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”.
So, whatever you have done, that you may think is too terrible to admit to anyone—Jesus paid it all. It’s all forgiven. But for you to clear your conscience, you must ask forgiveness from people you have wronged and accept Jesus’ forgiveness. Isn’t that just fantastic news? It is all cleared through the blood of Jesus. If you just accept this, you’re free!
There is, however, another side to the question of guilt.
Little by little, through different circumstances in my upbringing, fear gripped me and influenced how I saw the Bible, Jesus and the ”good news”. The Bible verses got so twisted in my head that I concluded I was a lost cause and there was no possibility of salvation for me. I’d do everyone a favour if I killed myself. But I couldn’t do that. That thinking brought so much guilt on me.
Perhaps some of my guilt may resonate with you:
— I felt guilty that my father and brother had remained alcoholics.
— I felt guilty my marriage was not as happy as I thought marriages should be.
— I felt guilty I was going to give birth to children with defects because I was not a good Christian.
— I felt guilty that I didn’t give enough money to the church. They needed more.
— I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing enough for God; no more converts were joining the church.
— I even felt guilty Jesus had not come yet. If I were a real Christian, He would be here now.
— It was all my fault!
That kind of guilt was making me feel very bad, but I didn’t see anything I could do about it. I was paralysed. I call this “false guilt“. It comes from Satan who uses our past to stop us from enjoying freedom in Jesus.
I praise God that He opened my eyes to see the Bible in a different way. He sent a book my way, which helped me to go through the Bible again, and reformat my brain. I started seeing verses in a different way and I discovered verses I had never noticed before, although I knew Bible quite well. Like the verse that comes straight after the well-known John 3:16. Verse 17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Another beautiful passage is found in Romans 8:1-3: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” And John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
With Jesus, you are legally free, and don’t need to feel guilty at all. When you do something wrong, confess your wrongdoing and live a life of joy and freedom. And if you are feeling guilt that paralyses you, makes you feel bad about yourself but there is nothing you can do to repair it, this is from Satan; tell him to leave you alone, because you are a free person in Christ.
I invite you to accept Jesus, accept His forgiveness and experience the life of freedom!
Dr Danijela Schubert is project assistant to the South Pacific Division Field and Ministerial Association secretary.