4.3.2 Guilt

Whenever human beings violate God's will, they sin and thereby incur guilt before God. Guilt is manifest when God in His righteousness and omniscience holds this misconduct against an individual who has committed a sin. The magnitude of guilt incurred can only be measured by God.

The extent of such guilt may vary: the knowledge and motivation of the sinner with regard to his actions are decisive factors here. Likewise, certain influences to which human beings are exposed may play a role, such as their general circumstances of life, social structures, statutory norms, emergency situations, and pathological dispositions. The guilt incurred by a particular sin may in one case be virtually non-existent, while in another case, it may be so severe as to "cry out to God" (Genesis 4: 10). From all of this it is clear that guilt, in contrast to sin, can be relativised.

God, in His love, wishes to redeem human beings from sin, and free them from guilt. The sacrifice of Christ, the epitome of divine salvific activity, serves to this end.

SUMMARY

Sin and guilt must be distinguished from one another. (4.3)

Sin is everything that opposes the will of God and runs counter to His nature. Every sin separates from God and must be forgiven. Whether or not something is a sin lies exclusively in the divine will. By no means can human beings define on their own what constitutes sin. (4.3.1)

Guilt is incurred when God in His righteousness and omniscience holds the misconduct of a human being against him when he has committed a sin. The seriousness of the guilt incurred can vary. God alone measures it. In contrast to sin, guilt can be relativised. (4.3.2)

See also