Conviction or condemnation

People who are depressed are often filled with guilt, so when the Bible says we will be 'convicted' of sin this can be seen as unhelpful. Leaving aside the fact that some people [and churches are not immune from them] thrive on making people feel guilty, is this really what God intended - or have we got our words mixed up?We associate the word conviction with the Criminal Justice System and people being sent to prison for punishment. This may be the order in which things happen, but I think our society was after something deeper than this. It may be true that many people in prison do not learn anything and go on to re-offend but, in faith, I hope that the greater aim of the System is to help people 'get it' at a deep level and walk away from their old life to start a new life. Sounds like the Gospel, doesn't it. Maybe this is what conviction really means - a deep raising of awareness of the need to change direction and the potential that can follow.

Condemnation on the other hand is something that IS meant to make you feel bad and is meant to be a sentence and punishment and a final disposal. It IS linked in the Bible with judgement, and SHOULD make you feel guilty. We are told that for those who are Christians there is NO condemnation (Romans 8v1), and for those who go against God that condemnation is deserved and coming.

So, have we got our conviction mixed up with our condemnation? Do we need to learn again to appreciate conviction as a good thing. My personal convictions are what make me who I am - can I add God's convictions to that helpful list?
Rob Waller, 25/02/2009