|Bug Lighthouse, Portland, Maine|
But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. (Matthew 9:4-7)Jesus heals the man, but how does he do it? He forgives him.
What is guilt? Is the definition "the state of having sin" too simplistic? And who is guilty? We all are. Buechner, in Wishful Thinking, says that "The danger of our guilt, both personal and collective, is less that we won't take it to heart than that we'll take it to heart overmuch and let it fester there in ways that we ourselves often fail to recognize."
How can we react to being guilty? We can ignore it; we can pretend that we are not guilty. Have you noticed that when people are ignoring what they are doing wrong, they are often seeing that sin in others and judging them for it? It's called projection, and while it is normal, it is not a healthy way to deal with guilt.
How else do we deal inappropriately with guilt? We can become angry at others for pointing out our sin - angry to the point of action against them, whether we break a relationship with them or do something else that is hurtful.
Guilt can move us to isolation and depression as we struggle to handle something that we just can't handle.
Is it any wonder then that Christ healed the paralytic by forgiving him? Buechner goes on to say, "It is about as hard to absolve yourself of your own guilt as it is to sit in your own lap." We need Christ.