Guilt is a terrible master but a wonderful servant. I am convinced that it lies at the root of so many struggling and broken relationships. We can call it ‘feeling bad’, it may express itself in anxiety, but sitting beneath a plethora of malaises is often old-fashioned guilt.
When we are struggling it will be worth going straight to the question ‘what am I feeling guilty about?’ The struggles may seem entirely unrelated to guilt. We may feel ourselves to be the victim of injustice, not understood, suffering in a particularly bad run of fortune. We may have wrapped around ourselves the warm coat of self-pity, allowed ourselves to wander into depression or fallen into a state of sullen collapse - but if we dig a little beneath the surface we will probably find guilt. That is the problem with guilt. It rarely presents itself as such. It comes in so many clever disguises that we are deceived by its subtleties and spend hours trying to work out how we can’t possibly be wrong.
We usually feel guilt in our introvert. The question then becomes how will our extrovert respond to feeling guilty? Will it hit out, physically or verbally - probably against the one we love the most? Will the guilt go into our minds and give us many hours of fruitless mental gymnastics? Clearly we must do something about this guilt issue.
And then there are those times when we really do get it wrong and we know we need forgiveness. Can we be so forgiven that we need not visit, or even think about, those wrongdoings again? Can we truly and deeply forgive ourselves for all that we would now do differently?
At the heart of the Easter message is a cross. The cross of Jesus is the deathblow to our sin and therefore to our guilt. The power of sin is broken. The consequences are removed. We have nothing to fear. Because of the cross the basis of the relationship between God and us has been changed. We are sons of the living God. Yes, we will still do wrong and we must keep short accounts with God but our relationship with him is not defined by the sin question so we must not live our lives on the basis of guilt. We can learn to walk away from it. Remember, the cross represents a crossroads - an opportunity to choose to walk away from every instant of guilt which could so quickly destabilise us. Let us make that commitment to ourselves as we enter this time of remembrance and celebration.