Being a human is difficult in the twenty-first century. The older I get, the more sympathetic I am to such statements. I used to think our technological advancements meant we have it easier today than ever. In a way, it is true. Nowadays, we no longer need to wash clothes manually, endure days of delay for postal messages, tend to barn animals, engage in strenuous physical labor (for most of us), or sit through YouTube commercials (for a fee, which I do not pay).
But, in another more important sense, life today is extremely difficult. In times past, you did not have to work out your career with fear and trembling; it was given to you by your parents or the person who owned the land you tilled. You did not have to worry about what everyone thinks about you because your life was not on the internet. You did not have the annual purgatory of tax season, with the threat that if you misstep one of the million words in the US tax code (which is more words than in the Bible), you will be harassed by the IRS. The worst part about today, however, is not these things. It is that we all feel guilty all the time.
Are you having a nice evening after a hard day’s work to the glory of God? Here is a commercial about a child with a cleft lip, who you are not helping while you sit and eat Cheetos. Are you enjoying a nice walk out in God’s creation? There is that neighbor you keep ignoring who is going to hell, and it will be on you. Did you post something on social media that glorifies God? Look at all those nasty comments calling you a bigot. Spend some money on yourself, maybe a nice vacation? Why did you not go on a short-term mission trip instead? Or give that money to the poor who never have vacations?
Life was simpler when our destinies were set, and the internet was a glimmer in my great-grandparents’ eye. Today, guilt has worked its way into the Western psyche; just look at white social justice warriors—they are the new pre-converted Martin Luthers, confessing every possible sin they have committed since last sitting in the confessional.
What is the solution? The Law of God.
Many people think of the Law of God as the straw that will break their backs. They are already under such a load of guilt that looking to God’s Law seems like masochism. The truth is that God’s Law sets us free from such guilt.
For example, a few nights ago, my wife recounted an event earlier in her day. She was rushing to get the kids to school and needed to turn right at a red light. However, there was one car in front of her that was blocking her. So, she tapped her horn and signaled to the person driving said car, motioning a request that he move up a little, maybe 3-4 feet so that she could get through. Next to her, she heard a horn blaring repeatedly. She looked over and saw a man motioning for her to roll her window down. When she did, he tersely told her to be patient and that the car in front of her should not have to move.
After this event, my wife spent about 30 minutes feeling shameful and guilty. But then, she was reminded of God’s Law. Had she transgressed it? Sure, patience is a fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22), but getting your kids to school on time so that they can learn about God is also important (Prov 22:6). Nothing in the Law of God indicates that it is a sin, or lack of patience, to ask someone to move so that you can get to your destination before you are late. If anything, doing so in an attempt to honor a commitment to be on time is better than not doing so. Therefore, my wife’s guilt was blissfully dissipated because she realized that—though the “good Samaritan” honking at her thought otherwise, she was not in sin.
This example demonstrates that more of God’s Law actually reduces our feelings of guilt. Does God’s Law say we are never to relax and that we must help every person who asks us for help? Jesus did not help everyone who came to Him (Mark 6:5), and only God can do all things (Deut 3:24; Mark 10:27). Limitation, which includes our ability to help, is part of being human (Ecc 9). Does the Law require that everyone should like us, including our social media posts? Actually, the opposite is the case (John 15:20; 1 John 3:13). We are called to share the gospel, but are we ultimately responsible for who goes to heaven and hell? That is God’s jurisdiction (Rom 9).
The point, then, is that many of the negative emotions we feel, which are often guilty emotions, can be remedied by taking them to God’s Word. When we do so, we will often recognize that it is not God who condemns us but other people or ourselves. On the other hand, we may come to realize that we are breaking the Law of God at times. Beautifully, the solution in such instances is not cowering before the courts of man but boldly entering the Throne Room of Grace, where Christ—our Pascal Lamb—sits enthroned forever. He has never, and never will, refuse perfect forgiveness to those who seek it. Glory be to God in the highest!