Discerning the Source of Guilt or Shame

[1] As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. [2] And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [3] Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.  (John 9:1-3)

The Gospel reading can serve as an example for us to clarify whether feelings of guilt or shame are arising from sin. 

Without a doubt, the man who was born blind was suffering the consequences of original sin. However, his blindness was not the consequence of actual sin. 

It is possible to us to experience guilt or shame as consequences when we haven’t sinned. I’ve seen this in brothers and sisters in Christ who have experienced debilitating illnesses which have no known causes. And in Christians who were impacted by the sin of a friend or family member, even though they personally bore no responsibility for the actions of the friend or family member. 

This is where the Gospel lesson becomes an example for us. Jesus understood that the man’s blindness was not the consequence of actual sin. Likewise, we can assess whether our feelings of guilt or shame are the consequences of sin. We may need to check with someone to see if we have, in fact, offended them. If we have sinned against them, we ask them for forgiveness. 

However, we may discover we have not sinned. In that case, we go to God in prayer. We ask our Lord to remove our feelings of guilt or shame and replace them with peace and joy. 

(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)

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