Forgiven People Understand Their Guilt

Forgiven People Understand Their Guilt

There is none who does good, there is not even one.
–Romans 3:12

Years ago when my mom was dying, a reporter asked her, “Mrs. Jeffress, you only have a few weeks to live. How does it feel to know that you are terminal?” My mom, with her great wit, shot back, “We are all terminal. The only difference is some of us know it and some of us don’t.” Well, that was the case with Simon the Pharisee and the streetwalker in Luke 7. Both of them had contracted the disease of sin. Both of them were facing eternal death. The only difference was that the prostitute recognized it, and Simon the Pharisee did not. What does this have to do with forgiving people? Christians ought to be better forgivers than non-Christians because they understand their own guilt. That’s the primary reason we ought to be better at forgiveness.

If we have really been forgiven by God, then we have to come to terms with our own guilt. You see, Simon felt contempt for the streetwalker because he imagined there was a great moral gulf between them. But the Bible says, “There is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:12). Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners in God’s eyes.

During World War II, Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn befriended an officer in the Russian army. After the war ended, the men went different directions. Solzhenitsyn was placed in a Russian gulag because of his outspokenness. The army officer, his friend, became a KGB agent and tortured state suspects to force confessions out of them. Solzhenitsyn wondered why there was such a difference between them. How could he and his friend go in two opposite directions when they had the same background and the same values? Then he offered this insight: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

We are all capable of sinning, and we are all guilty in the eyes of God. When you understand that the evil that resides in the heart of the person who has hurt you is the same evil that also resides in your heart, then it makes forgiving that person a little bit easier. When you understand your guilt and need for forgiveness, it makes being willing to extend forgiveness more palatable. Forgiven people understand their own guilt, which is why they should be better at forgiveness.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Basis for All Forgiveness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 Abridged” (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classic, 2007), 168.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.