Guilt is a universal phenomenon, not restricted to the pious
The Rev. Jonathon Jensen, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.:
Guilt is not just a feeling of the religious person but is a universal phenomenon.
It is not that a religious or nonreligious person should or should not feel guilty; sometimes we just do. We might feel guilty for something we have done wrong or failing to do the right things, whatever those might be.
A religion may provide the basis for that, but there is, in most of us, an inherent sense of right and wrong. Failure to live up to this standard, which may not even be moral in nature, is likely to produce feelings of guilt.
It may be helpful to not "feel guilty about feeling guilty" but instead view the feeling as a diagnostic tool that alerts one to the fact that all may not be well, like an error message on your computer or a cough and runny nose. Something is amiss, and the feeling of guilt can alert us to that fact before we might be aware of it otherwise.
Sometimes religion can cause feelings of guilt, either intentionally or otherwise. Good religion provides a way to acknowledge the feeling, understand why it has occurred and provide a means by which to move past guilt.
In the Christian faith, we believe we are liberated from the guilt of sin through the cross of Christ. By grace through faith and practice, we are able to live the joys of life beyond guilt in all of our relationships and with ourselves.
- Send e-mail to Jonathon Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Human beings intended to be in communion with God
The Rev. Ji Seok Ju, pastor, Centenary United Methodist Church, 245 N. Fourth St.:
Christians understand human nature by seeing human beings in the image of God. Human beings are created in the image of God. God intended humanity to be in communion with God.
Original sin tore apart this communion, distorting the image of God within us and making humankind imperfect, limited and grounded in the mundane. Feeling guilt began as a consequence of fallen humanity and can today be seen as our own conscience when we say we are all created in God's image; guilt is the awareness of our own shortcomings.
However, the cross of Jesus' crucifixion has reconciled us to God and restored fallen humanity. The cross was a symbol of punishment and condemnation, but Jesus turned it into forgiveness, salvation and restitution of fallen humanity.
Feeling guilt about the broken relationship between God and humanity, between individuals or within oneself may be bridged through forgiveness and reconciliation. After all, God wanted and still wants fellowship with us. Reconciliation between individuals and forgiveness of others is what human beings need in order to deal with guilty feelings.
It is normal for a Christian to have feelings of guilt, but we do not have to live in guilt because Jesus Christ, the healer, set us free from that guilt. The important key is to learn how we should respond to the feelings of guilt. If we think about and evaluate our feelings of guilt, we find spiritual growth and we may become the mature people God intended us to be. We are, after all, worthy of God's love and the love of others.
- Send e-mail to Ji Seok Ju at email@example.com