I’ve said many times that one of my favorite past-times is feeling guilty – like I’m really good at it. The good side of that is that there is no chance that I’m trying to “get away with something”. The guilt from any rule infraction chases me down and holds me captive until I’ve made it right. If I allow myself to get caught up in gossip or negative talking, you can bet I’ll soon be texting the people who heard it to apologize for the mis-step. For this kind of guilt, I’m thankful because I’m frightened of what I would become without it.
If the Pharisees and priests of Jesus’ day could have had that kind of guilty nudging from the Holy Spirit, it may very well have saved them from themselves. If, after they plotted how to get rid of Jesus, one of them had written a note to the rest of the group, saying, “Guys, I’ve been thinking…and I just don’t feel good about this.” How would that have changed their involvement in the murder of the Savior of the world?
Surely someone in the group or someone watching when they gave Judas money to turn in his master and friend, felt a little guilty. Surely someone wondered whether they were wrong in how they felt about Jesus. But no one spoke up – no one let the guilt take hold and push him to do the right thing.
But then, even sadder is the response of Judas to those guilty feelings. To feel so overwhelmed by the guilt and to be completely unable to find a way out of the mess you’ve created, must be horrific. We might ask why he didn’t just repent like Peter did after denying he even knew Jesus, but he obviously couldn’t see past his guilt to any other solution than ending his life. He evidently didn’t realize what an amazingly gracious and forgiving God we serve. And many times we have the same problem. We see God as someone who is crouched and ready to condemn us, rather than as a parent who wants more than anything to be close to us.
Guilt is good when it pushes us to make things right and to live closer to Jesus. Guilt is bad when it causes us to feel like there’s no way back – no forgiveness. God is love, therefore He only wants what is for our good, and forgiving is something that He excels at.