No. 28 - 19th February 2017

Have you noticed that when public figures get caught out cheating on their expenses, or involved in some sort of corruption, and they’re forced to make a public apology, they can’t say, “what I did was wrong”. The most they can manage is “I made a mistake”, which really doesn’t describe what they’ve been doing. We used to call it sin, but I suppose we can’t use that word any more, because it implies that there’s a God who has been sinned against – that there’s an absolute moral law that has been broken, whether I get found out or not.

My wife and I once drove an elderly Aunt down from Manchester because she couldn’t drive and had never owned a car. We stopped at one of the Motorway Service Stations for a bite to eat, and just before the entrance, the RAC had set up their van for a publicity campaign. As we passed, one of the salesmen stepped forward with a bunch of leaflets and asked if we were members. I assured him that we were, and carried on. The Elderly Aunt was looking quite worried. Finally, before we reached the entrance, she whispered, “Do I have to be a member to get in here?” It really bothered her that she was getting into the Service Station under false pretences.

God has given each one of us a mechanism for regulating our own behaviour. It’s called a conscience. If we ignore it, our society will become more and more chaotic as each individual does what is right in their own eyes. You know, there’s something immensely freeing about keeping a clear conscience. It doesn’t mean we never do anything wrong. It just means that we bring our wrongs out into the open, before God, who is more than willing to forgive and wipe the slate clean. That’s what it means to have a clear conscience. As the Psalmist once put it: “The one whose life is blameless, who does what is right, and who speaks the truth from their heart; will never be shaken”. Modern psychology tries to remove guilt by saying you haven’t actually done anything wrong, so don’t feel guilty about it. And as a result, we’re left with no concept of right and wrong – just a form of anarchy. Well, it doesn’t need to be like that. As someone recently wrote in the Times, “What’s the point of having a conscience if you never use it?” I would agree with that. Wholeheartedly!

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