Our guilt is destroying us

October 29, 2023

Psalm 32 v 4-5

When I refused to confess my sin,

   my body wasted away,

   and I groaned all day long.

4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.

   My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you

   and stopped trying to hide my guilt.

I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”

   And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

What is driving us mad and what do we do about it?

So much mental anguish in the western world, people are broken and hurting. I see it every day, especially on the roads. Minor friction in daily life seems to be enough to put some people over the edge. There's so much anger, one-upmanship, and rudeness. A deep social malaise shrouds the nation. Everybody can see it, but when asked for the answer, the only response is more government investment in mental health services. We haven’t really thought this through.

The questions are: Why do we have problems? What lies at their heart and how should we treat them and by what authority do we make this judgement?

Worldview matters

The secular viewpoint can be represented by someone like Sartre, who said that man exists but has no essence. (has being, but has yet to create himself). While they wouldn’t phrase it like this, they want to be “as gods” - (Gen 3 v 5). "Sartre wants to be free of everything, except his own existence". (Rushdoony ) No rules. No structure and creating a new order which inevitably ends up being open rebellion to God’s order.

So we have a choice before us. Who is actually God? Us or Yahweh - Who makes the rules?

As a Christian, I believe there are universal moral laws - which we break at our peril. If we live under God’s plan, we can generally enjoy a fulfilling, useful life. Tragedy and misfortune will always strike because we are flawed, the world is broken and actions of others collide into our orbit.

Congruence - Living in harmony with reality

Here is the point I want to get to...Congruence…we must live in harmony with the world as it is created, rather than living in a world of our own creation. People are in so much pain because they either didn’t know the rules or thought the rules didn’t apply to them.

Deep down, we all know right from wrong and we know our lives don’t shape up. We all sin and most of us sin far more than we need to.

The Christian believes that undealt with sin is bad. Like a rotten apple, it will spoil the whole barrel. It must be cut out like a cancer; repented of and mortified (put to death).

Can we ever ignore some sins?

We all have our favourite sins but we too easily rationalise that God doesn’t see them or care about them, but the verses above in Ps 32 - tell another story. If we allow these sins to fester, however insignificant they seem, a heavy hand of discipline will sit upon us. We will not enjoy God’s full earthly blessing in our lives. cf Ps 66 v 18, Is 59 v2, Pv 28 v 13, 1Jn 1 v 9, Gal 6 v 7

Not dealing with sin causes guilt

Ignoring this sin willfully or inadvertently will cause direct and/or indirect feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety.

So, you might read this and say, “I don’t believe in your god invented by bronze age goat-herders”; are you off the hook? I’m not so sure, as you still need to account for implications of wrongdoing and the mental and physical penalty that comes from it.

Science now left to deal with sin

Freud believed that if men felt guilty, they would be driven to seek God. So in “successfully” getting rid of God, guilt now becomes a scientific problem. As man freed himself from the yoke of Christianity, he has stumbled into the prison of the modern state and embraced a new religion called science.

The problem is modern science has no answers for guilt, other than telling man it doesn’t really exist because he has moral autonomy. If he feels guilt, he should flee from its negative sensations and consider them nothing more than a software glitch.

Yet, everywhere we look, we see what happens when guilt is ignored. We are living with an epidemic of anger, anxiety, sadism and self harm. We have a big problem on our hands.

Christians affirm that guilt comes from within the man. It is not an external imposition or bad coding, and the more he tries to escape it, the guiltier he feel and the more he acts out.

Is the secular worldview strong enough to manage sin and wrongdoing?

So what is to be done? Our natural human response to guilt is to seek atonement and absolution. In other words, to say sorry, make good on the issue, and seek forgiveness. As Christians, we have an outlet for this. We know we fall short and can never reach God’s moral standard, so we look to Christ in faith and work through our own sanctification by keeping the moral law. Theological words which mean that Jesus took our guilt and shame, we trust in him and make him king of our lives. We then go about living well and living differently.

For the secular man, the urges are no less strong - He knows something is wrong but doesn’t know how to deal with it. Restoration is demanded, but none is available through his religion of science. So he tries to outrun his sin through work and distraction. The more he flees his shame, the guiltier he feels. The more he lashes out.

The broken western world we see today is a wider reflection of the individual pain felt by most. The undealt with sin of the many is pathologising the nation. Our leaders sense the problem building, and they turn to science and utopian thinking looking for answers, and all they have to offer us is politics of self-hatred and suicide.

Our leaders, the modern day high priests, bring us to the alter of atonement. No sacrificial lamb can be found, and we are to lay ourselves upon it so that we may become the guilt offering.

Without a sacrificial lamb, You become the guilt offering

Our leaders, the modern day high priests, bring us to the alter of atonement. No sacrificial lamb can be found, and we are to lay ourselves upon it so that we may become the guilt offering. Maybe if our lives and futures are sacrificed, this will remove the stain of guilt on the hearts of men and the nations. Hair-shirted environmentalism and other modern rituals of debasement become the kindling of our own self-immolation.

If we wonder why we struggle so much, it is because we have lost the language to explain what is going wrong. We hate ourselves for our sin. We know that sin has a cost and we can’t pay, and we grapple daily with the reality of guilt. We crave forgiveness, but we don’t know where to find it.

I’ve wrestled with individual sin all my life, but I never drew the connection to how our personal sins, when combined, can make a nation sick. When we have no means to deal with it, corporately, the whole thing buckles under the strain. The only response for our leaders is to sacrificially throw its citizens overboard to keep the ship afloat for a while longer.

They know that blood is the only currency that will settle the burden of guilt. They haven’t gone full-throated vampire yet, but that time might come.

However, there is an alternative, the price of our sin has been paid in blood - but without faith, we can’t claim it and our spiritual lives and that of the nation are the worse for it.

So much blessing could be ours. So much trouble could be avoided if we would only deal with our guilt and shame assertively.