As I mentioned on Sunday (and many times before in sermons!), my wife and I have two dogs. They are pretty much well-behaved for the most part, but the younger of the two dogs, Sadie, is more of a troublemaker. Oftentimes when we are away for an extended period of time, Sadie will find a roll of toilet paper, a trash bag, or an old newspaper and just rip it to shreds. When we come home, she gets a terribly guilty look on her face–she knows that she did wrong and that we absolutely know it was her!
Guilt is something we often experience in life. Whether it is feeling remorse for how we treated someone or what we said, we’ve all felt like we could have done a better job at living rightly.
One of the most confusing passages of the entire bible (for me at least!) is Romans 7:14-20 where Paul talks about what he does and does not do in life:
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
If you’re like me, you might have to reread that passage at least a half dozen times to even have the faintest idea of what the apostle Paul is saying! Not understanding what he does… what he does he hates… not doing what he truly wants to do. That’s A LOT of do’s and don’t’s mixed all together. Romans 7 is quite the tongue-twister, and I’m glad I didn’t read it in worship on Sunday for those reasons 🙂
What Paul means by the passage is this: God has given you and me an conscience. We have a sense of what is truly right and wrong. When we do the wrong thing, we feel a sense of guilt come over us. We know deep down that lying or cursing someone else is wrong. We know in our hearts that cheating or stealing isn’t the right thing to do. Yet we do those things anyway. In Paul’s words, we do what we hate, and what we want to do, we don’t do it!
By grace, God has gifted us with a sense of right and wrong. Likewise, God has also given us the gift of conviction–feeling that little voice in your head to pursue righteousness rather than evil.
In our bible passage on Sunday, Jesus told Peter three different variations of the command to care for others. This surely convicted Peter because he had denied Jesus three times earlier in the story. Even though this might have challenged Peter greatly, Jesus saw the need to press him onward to be a more loving, bold, and caring kind of person.
How can you better listen to God’s conviction this week? Its important to ask ourselves that. And when that conviction does come, it is important to lean into any discomfort and let God transform your guilt into the newness of Christ.