Peter “went outside and wept bitterly” after he shamefully denied Christ in that cold, outer courtyard.
Many of today’s trendier-than-thou clergy tell us that words such as “guilt” and “repentance” are out of fashion.
“Musn’t lay guilt trips on people,” we are told, or make folks feel bad when they actually are bad.
The prayer of the penitent tax-collector, “God have mercy on me, a sinner,” is considered outdated, even though Jesus said that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.”
The emphasis today is on “renewal” and “self-celebration,” which is more along the lines of what the Pharisee said when he prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men…”
The problem among people today is not an overwhelming sense of guilt messing folks up – but rather an underdeveloped sense of guilt.
Witness the defective sense of sin in people committing themselves to a sinful lifestyle, the utter lack of shame when grandma asks: “How can you do that? How can you go to sleep each night? Doesn’t it occur to you that you might die tonight? How would you face God?”
To the prophets, priest and people of Jeremiah’s day, God said: “Are they are ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (Jer. 6).
In fact, many people today no longer speak of real “guilt.” They speak of “guilt feelings.” Guilt has been reduced to a mere emotion rather to an actual accountability for wrong-doing.
But the truth is, when we do something wrong, it is always good to experience guilt. Why else did Christ become our Brother if our guilt is not real? For what purpose did He lay down His very life?
St. Paul spoke of “godly sorrow” which leads to repentance. The word for “repentance” literally means to “change the mind.” Many people feel the need to turn their lives around, to change direction. But turn where? Some turn away from God. Some simply drop out. Others turn inward. Still others turn back and accommodate themselves to conditions in the pig sty. Where does one go with one’s very real guilt? Godly sorrow turns to Christ who came to bear our guilt and shame. Jesus came to die for real sinners, for truly guilty souls, for Peter, for you, for me, for all.