Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
If you’ve ever studied something of the Second World War, you might know the name Albert Speer. He was Hitler’s chief architect in Nazi Germany and rose to great power within Hitler’s party. At the Nuremberg trial in 1945, he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and wrote extensively about that period of his life.
He was the only one of the 24 war criminals who admitted his guilt. He acknowledged that he felt ‘personal guilt’ for what had happened and the tragedy of so many lives lost, and he accepted responsibility for it because he had been part of the Nazi regime. Later in life he went to London and the US and was interviewed one day on the ABC‘s Good Morning America TV show.
The interviewer referred to a passage in one of Speer’s earlier writings and said to him: “You have said the guilt can never be forgiven, or shouldn’t be. Do you still feel that way?” The look of pathos on Speer’s face was wrenching as he responded,
I served a sentence of twenty years, and I could say, I’m a free man, my conscience has been cleared by serving the whole time as punishment. But I can’t do that. I still carry the burden of what happened to millions of people during Hitler’s lifetime, and I can’t get rid of it. This new book is part of my atoning, of clearing my conscience.
The interviewer pressed the point: “You really don’t think you’ll be able to clear it totally?” Speer shook his head: “I don’t think it will be possible.”
For 35 years Speer had accepted complete responsibility for his crime. His writings were filled with contrition and warnings to others to avoid his moral sin. He desperately sought a way to make amends for his sin. All to no avail. He died an old man in 1981.
Our Inbuilt Alarm System
Anne Graham Lotz wrote, “God has built into each of us an alarm system to warn us of the unwanted entry of sin into our lives. The alarm system is called guilt. In our pleasure-seeking, anything-goes, feel-good society, guilt is a problem. We run from it.”
Do people feel guilt today? I’m sure they do. But we try to not think about it, ignoring those feelings, hoping they will go away. When the movie The Passion of the Christ was showing in theatres across the nation, more than 70,000 reports came in of the film helping people. At least four criminals confessed to crimes they had committed including bombings, robberies, and one murder.
In Arizona, Turner Lee Bingham, 20, walked up to a store about eight minutes after the alarm sounded and apologised to police for taking $80 from the register before confessing to five or six burglaries at other places. Bingham had seen The Passion with his mother, and he felt guilty, the store owner, Tobias Bright, said police told him. “I’ve seen the movie myself,” Bright said. “I think it’s the kind of movie that makes you stop and think about things for a minute.” The store owner, who identified himself as a Christian, said he wished Bingham would have felt guilty “20 minutes earlier, before he took a baseball bat to one of my windows.”
Guilt plagues everyone to some degree, for we all have to lay our heads on our pillow at night and accept the fact that we have not done as well as we could have done. One Christian psychologist recently stated that, “Guilt is the most difficult problem in the whole realm of psychological therapy.” One little boy was asked to define guilt. He said he wasn’t quite sure what it was, but he thought it had something to do with feeling bad when he kicked girls!
David said in Psalm 40:12: “…problems far too big for me to solve are piled higher than my head. Meanwhile my sins, too many to count, have caught up with me, and I’m ashamed to look up.” (TLB)
- Have you ever felt that way?
- Have you ever felt ashamed to look up?
Our guilt can make us ashamed to ask God for help. But God knows all about your sins and your failures, and he loves you anyway. He is ready to forgive all of them if you will just humble yourself and ask him to forgive you.
Is there any sin that God cannot forgive?: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 – NKJV).
Getting back to David, he made a tremendous decision as he prayed to God:
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. (Psalm 32:5 – NLT)
First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away”.