Guilt is a funny thing. Like humor, it depends upon ambiguity. Everyday we do things that are wrong, but we tend to only feel guilty about the ones that have some confusion to them. Remember the story that Jesus tells about the rich man and Lazarus; the dude with a Rolex on his wrist and a Porsche in the drive, walks by the beggar at his door, never feels guilty, and doesn’t realize that he has contributed to Lazarus’ early death by his neglect. The rich man lives, we assume, a very purpose-driven life, with clear goals and no time for soft-headed things like charity. His approach to social ills is unambiguous; what’s this got to do with me?
Where we see great guilt in the Bible is in characters who allow ambiguity to creep into their worldview. This is the primary purpose of preaching. To insert ambiguity into people’s lives. This is the desired outcome of worship, to leave people feeling insecure about their prejudices and assumptions.
So, King David has a heart that has been shaped enough by worship that he falls into a dark ambiguity-driven depression when he is told by the prophet that God has seen what he did with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. So, King Herod, who orders the execution of thousands without loosing a minutes sleep, feels guilty about beheading John. He liked John, even though he couldn’t stomach a thing John said. Many people have the same relationship with Jesus.
What is the role of ambiguity and guilt in your life?