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This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guilt

i've often heard that Christians shouldn't keep beating themselves up over sins they commit. i've even heard several preachers and class teachers say that Satan uses this to keep you ineffective. i've also heard (less often) that thinking you need to beat yourself up for a period of time is practically equivalent to believing that you have to earn back God's grace (a sort of penance system); thus, wallowing in guilty feelings over sin is a way of misunderstanding and even cheapening the grace of God.

i don't disagree with any of that. What i'm wondering is, do we have to beat ourselves up at all? What if you sin, know it was wrong, want to do better, but don't allow yourself to feel guilty at all? What if you don't spend any time feeling bad about it? What if you merely resolve to do better next time? If you don't feel guilty about it at all, have you done something wrong? Have you somehow failed to repent?

4 comments:

Dusty Chris said...

I think guilt is more of a fact than a feeling. I either committed a sin or not. If I did, I am guilty. Period. Despite what I feel about it, that guilt remains.

Now shame is a whole different thing. Beating oneself up because of sin is shame. Not letting it go is shame.

Knowing I sinned (that I am guilty) is essential in repentance, confession and forgiveness. If I deny I am guilty when, in fact, I am, I am in denial and cannot deal with it.

Shame is unnecessary. Shame is an attempt to deal with the sin myself, without the grace of God. yuck....Ends really bad. Shame is Satan telling us that the forgiveness of God does not apply and freezes us in that state.

MrsHonea said...

I like Dusty's comments! Good post.

Brent said...

But it we do something we believe is wrong (even thought it isn't) and do it anyway . . . isn't that the working of a sinful heart. Isn't that also sin?

reborn1995 said...

Brent,

i'd say yes, but there's one kind of case i'm really not sure about. Paul talks about conscience-violation more than once and makes it pretty clear that such is sinful. However, his examples seem to be all cases where a matter is objectively *permissible,* yet the conscience-violater believes it's wrong and does it anyway. But what about matters that are objectively *obligatory*? What if a person believed such an act was wrong? Is their refraining okay? (my gut says "no way.") If they do it despite their conscience, have they sinned in doing something they're truly obligated to do? (Not as clear to me. But my gut here says, if they did, they still haven't done something as bad as refraining.)

My point in this post was this though: does God expect us to have bad feelings after we sin? Are bad feelings required? Can i know that i sinned, admit it, ask forgiveness, and resolve not to do it again, all without feelings of self-hatred or self-abasement (etc.), yet still have done what repentance requires of me?

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