The other day I was about to go through the guilt meter at Walmart. Most of you probably know Walmart carries about everything there is to carry, but you didn’t realize that they have a guilt meter. I don’t know if all of their stores have guilt meters but all of the stores in which I’ve ever been, it was on prominent display. In the past I didn’t pay any attention to it — didn’t even know it was there — but since I became aware of it I never go in the big store without passing through the guilt meter.
You may be wondering where is it and what it looks like. Well, it’s the entry way to Walmart. When you enter the store through the two sliding doors at the front, one of the doors will have over the top the word, “Enter.” The other door will be marked, “Exit.” If you are like I used to be, you don’t pay a bit of attention to it. You just walk up to one of those sliding doors and it slides open. Fact is, you can walk in the exit door and walk out the enter door.
The reason for enter and exit doors is to create a flow pattern of human beings coming in and out so we won’t run over each other — especially if somebody is coming out with a load of groceries or goods and can’t see you when you’re going in the exit door. You may be run over and forgotten about. The door markings are there, bigger than life, telling you what you need to do for your own good.
The reason I call it the guilt meter is because the Bible teaches us that as citizens in this world, we are to obey the directions and guidelines of the government and institutions as well as the laws of God. The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus, the young preacher: “Instruct the people.” In Titus 3:1, he said, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” You and I are to be mindful of the laws, instructions, and guidance provided in places where we go.
For example, you go into the hospital and think that you have free run of the place and you can go in any door you want. No! In fact, there are many places off limits to everyone except the people taking care of the people who need to be taken care of. You and I need to follow the directions for that organization and institution. We are not allowed to go wandering around the emergency room or up and down the halls of certain areas or just breeze through the surgical suite. Not on your life.
Those instructions at the hospital don’t necessarily come from Washington, D.C. The U.S. Congress didn’t pass laws directed specifically at that, but whatever need is there you are supposed to find your place and do the right thing. It’s true wherever you might be, including church. Even there, we need to be mindful of where we should be and not be so there might be decency and order and everyone will not have their interests and rights infringed upon — and neither will yours be.
Whenever you don’t do what you’re supposed to do in any of those settings and especially before God, one of the things you can feel is guilt. Guilt is the feeling of doing wrong. It could be breaking one of the Ten Commandments, or violating a huge moral law in our society under God, or going in the exit side or coming out the entrance side. I’ve been in Walmart enough times that I know people don’t pay any attention to how the doors are marked. There are people coming and going out of a door they’re not supposed to use that way.
I’ve done it myself. I’m confessing. If you are mad at me, upset, perturbed that I would dare come in the exit side, I have done that. In fact, when I was about to go in the guilt meter the other day, that’s what caught my attention. The door had opened and I was about to walk right through the exit side. I stopped, moved over about five feet, and went through the entrance side and, oh, did I feel good about myself. Some of you may think, “Good grief. If that’s all you’ve got to worry about, you need to get a life.” I think you’re right, but it’s not all I have to worry about. The reason I’m pointing it out is because I’ve learned if your guilt sensitivity is at a threshold where going through the wrong door at Walmart can get your attention, that’s probably a good thing.
If you pay attention to the little things, you probably won’t have to deal as much with the big things. The same approach of spiritual sensitivity and desire to follow the Lord or what He has asked us to do will take place in your heart and life on the major things. I have lived long enough and watched long enough that when we begin to ignore the little things, we begin to have creeping insensitivity about crossing the lines on the big things, too.
Guilt is an interesting item in the Bible and everyday life. References to guilt or being guilty are found less than 100 times in the Bible, yet the reality of guilt can be found on almost every page in the Bible. It can be seen all around us all the time. The less sensitivity people have to crossing the lines marked out right there before their eyes, even if it’s just an entrance or an exit sign, the more we become desensitized to paying any attention to any of it.
There’s good guilt and bad guilt. I would describe good guilt as being the kind of guilt that you are sensitive enough to avoid taking that step and going that direction you know is not proper. It’s helping you stay on track, doing the right thing, pressing on. Bad guilt I would describe as the kind of guilt that you committed a sin that has been hurtful to you, hurtful to others, hurtful to God, and it festers in the pit of your soul like an abscessed tooth or an arthritic knee. Like those ailments, it sometimes doesn’t seem to be there — but to move is to suddenly realize it’s still there.
The burden and pain of guilt is an awesome and awful thing. You can receive forgiveness for sin. When Jesus died on the cross, He took all of our sin upon Himself. Paid for our sins and all of its pain and manifestation in guilt. We can be forgiven and the load of guilt can be gone. You do not have to walk around all your life feeling like you’re a fourth-class citizen of the human race and living in fear that somebody’s going to put you on the six o’clock news dramatically showing you walking through the exit door when you’re supposed to be on the other side.
The freedom to walk a new path of life can be found only in Jesus Christ. I think it would probably be good at Walmart’s thousands and thousands of stores to put up a little sign that says, “If you’re entering at the exit, you need to know Jesus. He can fix you and help you feel right about yourself and lift your guilt.”
I’m not making light of their signs. I think it would help all of us if we paid attention to the direction signs in life. One thing is for sure: if you’re carrying a load of guilt and your life is burdened down with the wrong you did that you cannot let go of and others may not let you turn loose, find your way to Jesus today and hear Him say, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral