Guilt I like The American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of guilt: the remorseful awareness of having done something wrong. Not just awareness, but remorseful awareness. When I wore my mother’s new boots to the creek, got them wet and muddy, and left them on our screened porch for her to find, I was guilty. First of all, I had three older brothers whose feet would never have fit into them so that left only me. Secondly, when she asked me if I did it, I admitted it right away. I was aware that I did something wrong. Sure, I was sorry. But remorseful? Probably not. Not at twelve years old. I remember thinking if I had my own boots, ones tall enough to wade in, none of this ever would have happened. But as an adult, and faced with the financial pressures of raising a family, I can truly say, I’m remorseful. A Christmas bonus, spent on something just for her, a rare occurrence with three teenage boys and an almost teenage girl. There are few things in my life I would change, but that incident is high on the list. Of course she was angry, and of course she forgave me. I don’t know if I asked her to as a child, but the older my sons get and the more scraps they get into, the more I feel the urge to call and apologize to my mother.
Peter and Judas knew about guilt. Both were disciples of Jesus, closer to him than any others during Jesus’s time on earth. Both would leave Jesus, for different reasons and with different results.
Judas: the betrayer. Isn’t that how most people view him. Cut and dry. He turned Jesus over to the Roman soldiers. He sold out a friend for thirty lousy pieces of silver. Maybe he felt justified. After all, if Jesus had just called upon God, he could have conquered the Roman government, and created his own kingdom. Maybe Judas felt cheated. Maybe when Jesus spoke of heavenly riches, Judas envisioned them on earth. Certainly Judas felt remorse-bitter regret. He even tried to return the money, but the chief priests and the elders refused it. Guilt? Judas knew it like the back of his hand. So riddled with guilt was Judas, that he took his own life.
Peter: the forgiven. As I spoke of earlier, Peter rejected Jesus, when Jesus needed him the most. Not only did Peter deny he knew Jesus, he ran and hid until the heat had died down. But Peter knew things about Jesus that Judas must have missed somewhere along the way. He knew about Jesus’s forgiveness and grace. He knew he could never be good enough to deserve Jesus’s love or bad enough to dissolve it. He broke down and wept when he realized what he had done.
Tears of guilt-ever shed them? Maybe it was a night in the arms of one who isn’t your spouse. Maybe skimming a little off the books at work. Maybe cheating on a test. Peter knew guilt; but he also knew Jesus. He knew to fall down and weep bitterly, remorsefully. But more than that, he knew to ask for forgiveness.
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.” Psalm 130:4