We all feel so guilty.
Society is burdened with guilt at every level. Guilt over allegations of inequality in everything from race to sexual preference; guilt about immigration; guilt about prosperity; guilt about global warming and vanishing species. Guilt about war and terrorism, guilt about assigning blame for war and terrorism, guilt that we might have made someone in another country angry enough to hate us.
Medicine is full of guilt too. Guilt that we haven’t done enough for our patients. Guilt that we haven’t done enough for society. I saw an ad for the Army Reserve Medical Corps., a noble organization to be sure. But the add said something to the effect that, ‘you went to school and trained, you practice medicine, how about giving something back?’ Guilt, guilt, guilt. Guilt itself may be the true post-modern faith; or perhaps more accurately, a sacrament of it.
The truth is, religion isn’t the source of guilt. Religion just identifies it openly. (Actually, research suggests that my grandmother is the cosmic source of all guilt–a force so powerful that alien species and killer asteroids are repelled daily by her intense guilt waves!)
Christianity specifically is targeted as a very guilt-ridden faith. Truth is, we’re pretty good at it. We remind the world of its sinfulness with atomic clock regularity. Those outside the faith don’t realize that we Christians plague each other with guilt too! Few sermons remind us of our redemption and of God’s love for us. Most remind us of our inadequacy.
The problem is, we Christians actually have the answer; we just aren’t talking about it. Guilt is a symptom of the disease of all humanity; the disease of sin. And that guilt will find its way out at every opportunity, whether wringing our hands over lust or over the environment. We all feel badly about something.
It isn’t isolated to western thought, or the Judeo-Christian tradition, either. The Buddhist knows something of guilt; Siddhartha was miserable at the sight of so much suffering in the world. The Moslem knows guilt, and fears the wrath of a very harsh God. The ardent environmentalist is guilty about his gas powered vehicle, or about the meat he ate as a child. The communist guilty that there isn’t total economic equality in the world. Guilt is all around.
Christianity does have an answer, though. At Easter, Jesus says ‘Whatever you did wrong, I take from you.’ All that guilt we have come to love so much, that feels like a normal organ of our bodies, all the actions that caused it, all the separation from God, he took to the Cross. He killed it with himself, then rose up, leaving it all in the tomb.
It’s easy to say ‘he died for our sins’, and not think about it. Yes he did, but he died for our guilt. Not just the legal reality of it, but the lasting effects of it.
There’s nothing we do, nothing we did, nothing we failed to do, no thought, no sin, nothing wrong about us that wasn’t crucified.
That’s what Easter says. We’re delivered from all of it if we only believe. And once delivered, we can drop it and move on, the shed skin of our old life, dessicating in the bright sun of Easter morning.