17 A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.
17 Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder will seek refuge in the grave; let no one hold them back.
The Tell-Tale Heart
Edgar Allan Poe wrote a story over a century and half ago called “The Tell-Tale Heart” in which the narrator murders a man, dismembers the body, and hides it under the floor. Eventually the guilt of his crime gets to him, and he thinks he hears the beating heart of the man under the floor. It drives him to confess his wrong.
He could not live with the guilt.
In the New Testament we read of Jesus’ traitorous Apostle, Judas Iscariot. He helped the religious leaders arrest, and ultimately kill, Jesus. In his grief and guilt, he committed suicide. (See Matthew 27)
He knew he had killed Jesus, and he could not live with the guilt.
What About Us?
Are these stories and this verse telling us we should just let people get in trouble or even go to Hell?
The real warning for us is to watch ourselves when confronted with those with a guilty conscience. In the effort to try to help save them, we might find ourselves entangled in their problems.
We could get dragged into the results of their guilt, at worst by finding ourselves on the way to prison or the grave (think of those who inadvertently find themselves blamed for or involved with a crime).
If you offer advice to someone, and they seem intent on their path, sometimes it is better to let them go.
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
Acts 18:5-6, NIV
Those who do not know Christ as Savior are still living in the guilt of their sin, and if they refuse to turn to Him are on the way to the grave. If they begin to cause us to stumble in our faith, we must get out of their path toward death. We will only join in their suffering.
Dear Savior, give us the wisdom to deal with our fallen world and those who are lost in their guilt. Give us the wisdom to know when to help and when to get out of the way.