Guilt is incredibly powerful, and it can work itself out in funny ways. Let’s start with extreme examples and work our way down to our own lives. I suspect that our culture’s tendency toward outrage over trifles, the social media mob that seeks to ruin people’s lives for small offenses, the utter lack of proportion when it comes to weighing the heinousness of sins, is owing to a deep sense of guilt. The conscience is struck, and then suppressed because we wish to continue in our sin. We try to make peace with the Accuser in our head by becoming accusers ourselves. We seek justification by outrage.
When we’re living under the spirit of accusation, when we are trying to suppress our conscience, our impulse is to try to compensate for our sin by digging in and denying what we did was wrong, while at the same time trying to “make up for it” by doing good works. This is the schizophrenia of sin: deny that it’s sin, and try to find redemption from it anyway.
But here’s the problem, since we’re suppressing our conscience, since we’re resisting the God-given faculty that reflects his moral design and order for us, we’re not very good at determining what a good work is. Without the Holy Spirit, and with a broken and seared conscience, we don’t know our right hand from our left. And so we look to other people for affirmation and approval that we are a good person. We see which direction they are running, and we run that way too.
That’s part of what’s behind social media outrage: it’s a form of signaling that says, “I’m a good person. I get really mad at the bad things or the bad people. Please accept me.” And the things you get outraged at often tell you whose approval you want. I suspect it’s also what lies behind the rainbow flags that flew up after the Supreme Court decision. Many of the people who did that weren’t activists; they hadn’t been pushing the redefinition of marriage in any real way, at least any way that cost them anything. But they added the rainbow flag anyway. Why? It’s a form of signaling. “I’m with the good people. Please approve of me. Please don’t reject me.”
So what’s the point? Guilty people are easy to steer. This is true of the wider culture, and it’s true of us. Never forget that the Tempter and the Accuser are the same person. The devil wants to allure you into sin, and then keep you wallowing in it through a spirit of accusation. And no amount of outrage at trifles or social approval through signaling will get you out. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s seek him together now.
Prayer of Confession
Our Father and God, we live in an age of accusation. For all of our supposed tolerance, we are easily outraged, and our outrage is a form of people-pleasing. We are living in deep rebellion, under immense bloodguilt, alienated from you and your joy and approval, and so we desperately seek approval from other people in whatever way we can. We seek to overcome accusation by becoming accusers ourselves. We seek to quiet our conscience by assaulting others. These are great evils.
What’s more, as your covenant people, we often embrace this spirit of accusation. We go speck-hunting with a two-by-four sticking out of our own eyes. Or, because of our own repeated failures and sins, we mute our witness. “Who are we to point out the sins of others?” We use the log in our own eye as an excuse to be silent. But who else can preach the good news that Jesus has conquered sin and death except those who have been saved by it? Father, remove the log of sin from our eyes that we might see clearly to gladly call others to repentance.
We know, Father, that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst or in our own hearts, our prayers will be ineffectual. So we confess our individual sins to you now. . . .