I owe, I owe, it’s off to works I go
11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. (NIV)
The Levitical priests were required to perform sacrifices for various things. This includes sacrificing for sins. It happened on a daily basis. It is not too graphic to say it was a bloody mess.
But the author of Hebrews, who was contemporary with this institution in the Temple in Jerusalem, asserts that these repeated sacrifices can never take away sins.
In our day, I have seen many people who are not living in the now. What I mean to say is that they are motivated in their present living by their past. I think all of us are motivated by this to a certain degree. But some are find their motivation from guilt over real or imagined sin.
Maybe something really bad happened and the person felt responsible, or even was responsible for the event. It was something that could not be undone. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t clean up this mess.
Then, the individual changes the way they live. Unable to fix things, they become obsessed with doing penance. That is, they try to pay for their sin by living in guilt. From that moment on, whether it was a conscious decision or not, they become enslaved by guilt.
This is not the worst part, either. These individuals often drag others into perpetual guilty penance. The guilt they feel enslaves others.
Penance is actually the ‘Old Adam’s’ attempt to assuage his guilty conscience. False religions operate on the premise of penance. But false religions emanate from a heart which sinfully resists grace through Christ.
That is not how I would approach a person that lived this way, however. Instead, one can point out that Jesus has paid for all of their sin. Not just sin done before they knew any better. But even the real and painful sin that they become aware of now.
The person living in penance for guilt requires a Gospel Intervention. They require the hearing of the words from Romans 8:1,
‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’. They need to hear that ‘If the Son sets you free, you are free, indeed’.
The only thing that can drown a guilt-penance life is to tell that person that Christ is not a liar; He has paid for even the sin of trying to pay for your own sin.
I once heard a phrase from someone as they referred to the impact of using credit cards. He said that using credit cards was “mortgaging your future”. Living by guilt is essentially the same thing.
And, if you are forcing others to fall in line with your guilt, then you are enslaving them as well.
Christ have mercy,