Guilt is defined as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc.” What is good about this? When sin is committed and guilt follows, it could lead someone to repentance. It is good guilt that burdens the soul to the point that the need of a change is seen. It is even better guilt when the wrong is seen and the need of a change brings about godly sorrow and produces obedience to the Lord (2 Cor. 7:10). Think of those who have felt the tremendous pressure of guilt:
Saul felt the pain of guilt as he tried to kill David over and over (1 Sam. 17-31), but it was not good guilt because it never led to full repentance.
David felt the guilt of sinful adultery (as pointed out by Nathan the prophet) and confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). His penitent heart and God’s forgiveness led him to say, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psa. 32:1).
Peter felt guilt when he denied the Lord after having said he would never deny Him. “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly” (Mat. 26:75). His guilt was good guilt because it led him to true godly sorrow (John 21).
Judas felt crushing guilt after he betrayed the Lord. “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see you to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Mat. 27:3-5). Unfortunately, his guilt did not produce godly sorrow to the saving of his life and soul (Acts 1:25).
So, guilt can work in a positive way or a negative way. Feeling guilt is often good because it means the heart is still tender and sensitive to the sting of sin (2 Kings 22:19; Rom. 6:23). It means repentance is still in reach because the heart has not yet been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:12). The challenge for all is to recognize why guilt is felt. Assess if one is truly guilty and, if so, be motivated to change from guilty to guiltless (Jonah 3:8-10; Mat. 21:28,29; Luke 15:10).
Derrick Coble West Sparta church of Christ Sparta, TN