It is something that I have often heard in preaching and it goes something like this: “I don’t want to make you feel guilty….” The background to the statement is that the preacher is preaching to the end that they want the people to respond to the love of Christ and not because they feel guilty about some trait or behaviour.
However, if you start looking in the Old testament you will soon be finding that the prophets, in particular, are wanting to send the nation on a guilt trip. By way of example if you read through Hosea 4-14 you will find that the material is presented within the frame of an indictment against the nation of Israel for their turning form the Lord and His ways. So we read The Lord has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his deeds. (Hos. 12:2)
And read Micah 6:2 Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel.
And again in the writings of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:5-15 there is a listing of charges by the Lord against His people.
This all leads me to ponder upon the issue of the appropriateness of preaching so that the people of God are knowing and feeling their guilt. I ask, if the Lord was doing such through His servants of old why should we not be doing the same today? So go, fellow preacher, to preach to make the people of God know their guilt.
However, this determination to preach to the end of producing guilt should never be without the colourings of grace.
If we preach guilt as simply failing to meet the standards of righteousness required by God, then we preach a message that engenders lives of drudgery among the people. Such people are ever seeking to reach the standards of a divine being who is a detached king whose regulations we must adhere to as His submissive subjects. And there is not much pleasure and joy in that!
However, there is a grander biblical motif in which to preach guilt and that is of the divine marriage. Most beautifully this is expressed in how the people of God are the bride of Christ. Let’s dwell upon that. In marriage if one of the spouses fails to give due honour and attention to the other then they are guilty of relationship crimes. The one they are called to devotedly share life with is spurned for selfish purposes. For such a person we want them to feel their guilt.
And so it is when we preach the Word. We want the people of God to know that any breaking of their devotion to their beloved bridegroom in heaven is turning against the One who has devotedly loved them and committed Himself with eternal, self-sacrificial, blood shedding love. We want to make the people feel their guilt over this outrage.
When we are aware of our guilt as His adulterous children we repent and return to our Lord. All the while through our estrangement the marriage bond stands and so our cuckolded husband does not sue for divorce, but rather He stands ready to welcome us back into the enchantment of the harmony of sharing life with Him. This we once again enjoy through the blessings that flow from repentance.
We need to preach this kind of guilt because it is appropriate in the context of Saviour’s determination for us to be blessed in enjoying the goodness of being with Him.