A Life Awareness Course

No. 67 - 21st January 2018

Last year, I was caught by the speed camera in Nutley. I wasn’t much over the limit, but nevertheless, I was guilty of breaking the law. The fixed penalty is a fine and points on my licence. But I was offered the alternative of attending a speed awareness course instead. Naturally, I chose the speed awareness course. It was actually very interesting. And I’m glad I did it. It has definitely changed my behaviour on the roads and I’m more aware of speed limits now. There are different sorts of guilt. In this case I had broken a specific law and was actually, legally guilty. Nothing to do with my feelings. It’s just a fact. And the law lays down a specific penalty for breaking that law. I imagine most of us consider that a fair result because without these laws, we would be living in chaos where everyone does what is right in their own eyes. The roads are bad enough as it is, but can you imagine what they would be like without a highway code and someone to enforce it?

But what about moral guilt? Is there such a thing? If a father promises to take his son to a football match and then forgets about it because he’s too busy doing other things. He feels really guilty about it. He’d made a promise and he broke it. And now his son feels utterly crushed. But is that guilty feeling actual guilt? I mean no law has been broken. Or has it? The Bible insists that there is a genuine, moral law in the universe. A law that has been laid down by God. And a law that actually carries the death penalty. To be guilty of breaking that law is not a casual matter. You don’t get points on your licence or some trifling fine. I’m talking about moral and spiritual death. It sounds harsh. But that’s the law.

The Church has often been accused of creating unnecessary guilt, but to say that is to misunderstand what the Bible is saying. Of course it points out what is sinful, and indeed the ultimate consequence of that sin. But that’s not the real objective. Moral chaos is just as dangerous as driving fast cars without a Highway Code. God is simply defining sin and asking us to acknowledge when we have broken that moral and spiritual code. It’s only then that He can start working to change our behaviour. The police gave me a speed awareness course to help change my behaviour on the roads. God offered me a sort of life awareness course to change my behaviour in the whole of life. So I took it.

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