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GuiltGUILT


We live in a country with a difficult history. Racial inequality was built into the Apartheid philosophy. Ours is also the country which tops the Gini coefficient which measures in all countries in the world the disparity between the very rich and the very poor. It is not a league that we want to be coming first in! We know that as middle-class White people we are beneficiaries of the systemic inequalities that are part of our history, but we also know much of this does not feel as if it is intentional injustice on our parts, and, at least a portion of what we enjoy is the fruit of hard work by ourselves and our forebears. On top of that many of us have sought to make contributions as best we can towards the good of society. So guilt in these areas is a vexed matter.

The contentious questions of the rights and wrongs of the Fees must fall protests on our campuses further stir all this up in us. It all goes into the mix as we seek to engage missionally in a new season of national calls for social redress and restitution. It is uncomfortable and it can easily trigger guilt and resentment, making us feel that the finger is constantly being pointed at us. This is not an easy season in South Africa, let’s be honest about it.

For myself, I don’t think much is served by guilt. It hooks our underlying narrative of shame, triggers our defensiveness and is very ineffective as a motivator. I am aware there is true guilt and false guilt, and that if I have wronged someone I need the conviction of heart that moves me to go and make right and, if appropriate, make restitution, but that goes beyond guilt to feeling convicted and empowered to set things to right. Guilt on its own is not a productive state of heart.

It is instructive to look at the well-known story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery. In strict terms she is guilty – caught in the act – and has no defence. She is enmeshed in shame. Furthermore there is no shortage of accusers claiming the backing of the law. But Jesus doesn’t accuse; that is the province of Satan, who is named “the accuser of the saints”. The woman’s situation is only part of the picture; apart from the obvious absence of the man involved in this adultery, there is all the hidden sin in the hearts of the accusers. Jesus enters this scene as the Redeemer, inspiring and empowering the woman to live into a new identity – “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more.” It is a fundamental Gospel truth reaffirmed by Paul when he says “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

That doesn’t for a moment condone sin or give licence for complacency; what it does is to invite us into our true heavenly identity, empowering us to be co-workers with Jesus in setting brokenness to rights. God will always open our eyes to sin and injustice; he will always seek to convict our hearts and inspire us to be Gospel people of grace, mercy, righteousness and hope; he will always empower us by his Spirit to be part of the solution. Guilt on its own does none of these things.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). We enter the great questions of national healing in South Africa as free people, not weighed down by guilt and condemnation, but we enter them as citizens of the Kingdom of heaven; finding our identity in the character and values of Christ, inspired and empowered by his Holy Spirit, called into action as “Christ’s soldiers and servants” to join with him in making right all that is despoiled by individual and systemic sin. Now that’s worth getting up for in the morning!

Blessings
Rob

Rob Taylor, 17/11/2016

 
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