An investigator for social services fraud told of how the courtroom where he served was brought to order each day at 9 a.m. by an assistant district attorney. The assistant DA explains that each person charged is to answer one of three ways: “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “guilty with an explanation.” One morning, he was halfway through the roll call and read off the name of the next person. The man sharply answered, “Guilty with an exclamation!”
If I were to do a roll call for the Christians who are reading this article, I wonder how many of them would answer, “Guilty with an exclamation?” Far too many, I’m afraid. It seems that in every congregation of the Lord’s people there are scores of Christians who are reluctant to believe in the possibility of pardon. In their minds, the past is just too wicked, too ugly to be forgotten.
Fortunately, the Bible shares some important examples to encourage us to believe in God’s willingness to forgive sinners. One is David. It would be hard to imagine a worse crime than David’s. He was the king of Israel who misused his power to commit adultery and then tried to cover up his sin by essentially having his mistress’s husband murdered on the battle lines. After coming to his senses, a person in similar circumstances who is unfamiliar with our God might turn to despondency, thinking that redemption is hopeless. But David knew God would forgive him when he repented. Psalm 51 records his prayers: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (vv. 7, 10).
Paul is another example. Before his conversion he persecuted the church. Looking back on those awful days, he remorsefully called himself “the chief of all sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15, KJV). But at the end of his life, having obeyed the gospel and having lived a faithful life, he said,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Of course, there is the possibility that some feel guilty because they are not walking with God. In this case, confession and repentance is required before the healing will begin (1 Jn. 1:9).
God has promised that the blood of Christ sufficiently forgives all sin (Heb. 9:13-14; 10:22). Believing this promise will purge the conscience of guilt. There is no need for Christians to feel “guilty with an exclamation.”