Godly Conviction and White Guilt

by | Jan 14, 2020

Godly Conviction and White Guilt. The last few years have been illuminating for many white Christians, myself included. I am so thankful for the patient work of so many brothers and sisters of color who have pointed out blind spots and failures in allowing Christ’s ministry of reconciliation to have its full effect in our lives. These blind spots are rightly characterized as failures to realize the implications of the Gospel we claim to love.

But there is a danger for white brothers and sisters who engage with such (fair) criticisms. We can wrongly believe that feeling impassioned and convicted is the end of our work. We pay emotional penance for our sins of complacency, silence, and willful ignorance. Then we move on, as if feeling badly for our sin is all we need to do.

But there is a difference between feeling sorry for sin and actually repenting. To be sure, there is a grief that comes alongside repentance. But 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.” How do you know when sorrow over sin is godly? When it leads to repentance. If you are under conviction, it is always a godly exercise to examine yourself to see if there are any heart attitudes or patterns of behavior of which you need to repent. And the beautiful thing about repentance is that, when it’s complete, there’s no need for regret anymore.

Worldly guilt begins and ends with sorrow. The Bible gives us examples of those who were sorry for their sin but despaired rather than repented. Think of the difference between Judas and Peter.

Understanding the difference between worldly sorrow and true conviction should inform the way we have, and respond to, hard conversations in our churches. We should remember that sorrow is not the goal; loving our neighbor is the goal. Friend, is your desire to combat racism more about helping yourself feel better, or more about helping your neighbor? Some sorrow for sin and our shared, tragic history is unavoidable and appropriate. But sorrow alone ought never be our goal.

This is not a call to preserve the feelings of those who have no interest in hard conversations. This is a call to each of us to check our own hearts and motivations. Self-righteousness is so sneaky. It can root its way into the best intentions and sour them. When we need to bring up hard truths, our wounds should be faithful, as of a friend (Proverbs 27:6).

Scripture has much to say about both giving and receiving correction, but the goal is always repentance and restoration. May we care more about the unity of God’s people than we care about being right. May we care about real repentance more than flogging ourselves with aimless guilt. May God give us the wisdom to know our own hearts and what obedience should look like.

 


Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that God’s people would repent of sin as needed, not just feel worldly sorrow.
  2. Pray that God would show you any hidden self-righteousness within you.
  3. Pray that God’s churches would be more unified, just as Jesus prayed in John 17.
  4. Pray that God’s people would remember and rest in the atoning death of Jesus.

 

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Author

  • Austin Suter

    Austin is the executive director and editor for U?WP. He is a husband, father and seminary student at RTS Charlotte. Austin is a member at Iron City Church in Birmingham, AL. @amsuter

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