Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: conscience

The healing power of forgiveness

There is a great peace that comes over us when God forgives our sins, a release from the load of guilt that we have been carrying and a soothing of the pangs of conscience. Yet we tend to soon forget the caveat that comes with this peace: ” But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:15).

Other people do and say so many irritating and hurtful things. Surely they should apologize and ask our forgiveness so we could feel better about what they have done. Some will, but we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for every single person who has ever wronged us to come and apologize.

The apostle John tells us: ” If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (1 John 5:16). He goes on to say that “all unrighteousness is sin,” that is, everything that is not done out of a pure heart is prompted by our own sinful tendencies, aided by the tempter. No matter how minor they may be, they are sin. Yet, as long as they are not deliberate, wilful sins, we should not consider them grounds for separation of Christian fellowship. We should rather pray for that brother, and hope that he prays for us when we do or say hurtful things that we really did not intend to be hurtful.

“Charity shall cover the multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8). Charity is a healing balm in our Christian fellowship that helps us forgive others, accept them and feel accepted by them. There are serious sins that require a sterner approach, but let us consider two things. First, those sins are first and foremost sins against God. We should not put ourselves in God’s place in the judgment seat. Secondly, could it be that those sins are a result of a lack of charity among us? Let us examine ourselves lest the lack of charity become a stumbling block to others.

How much emotional distress, in ourselves and others, would be relieved if we could just learn to more ready to forgive? “So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7). This was said in the circumstance of someone who had repented of a very serious sin. Surely it would not be wrong to apply it in less serious circumstances.

It is good to be zealous in upholding that which is right and true. We need to be careful however, that in our zeal we do not do more harm than good. There is a way to take a stand for the truth that does not leave people with bruised and hurt feelings. A readiness to forgive does not mean an acquiescence in sin. If we cannot forgive, we cause ourselves to suffer and do no good for the person who has sinned. When we freely love and forgive we have a much greater opportunity to point others to the source of forgiveness.

FAME, part 2

Oh think not genius, with its hallowed light,
Can break the gloom of the eternal night;
For splendid talents often lead astray
The unguarded heart, and hide the narrow way,
While the unlearned and those of low estate,
With faith’s clear eyes behold the living gate,
Whose portals open on the shoreless sea
Where time’s strong ocean meets eternity.
Across the gulf that stretches far beneath
Lies the dark valley of the shade of death –
A land of deep forgetfulness, – a shore
Which all must traverse, but return no more
To this sad earth to dissipate our dread,
And tell the mighty secrets of the dead.
Enough for us that these drear realms were trod
By heavenly footsteps, that the Son of God
Passed the dark bourne and vanquished Death, to save
The weary wanderers of life’s stormy wave.

Why then should man thus cleave to things of earth?
Daily experience proves their little worth –
Or waste those noble qualities of mind,
For wise and better purposes designed,
In pursuit of trifles, which confer
No solid pleasure on their worshipper;
Or in the search of causes that are known
And guided by Omnipotence alone?
A height his finite reason cannot reach,
And all his boasted learning fails to teach?
While the bewildering thought overwhelms his brain,
Death comes to prove his speculations vain!

Is he deserving of a better doom
Who will not raise a hope beyond the tomb?
Who, quite enamoured with his fallen state,
Clings to the world and leaves the rest to fate;
Prefers corruption to his Maker’s smile,
“And shuns the light because his deeds are vile?”
The man who feels the value of his soul,
Presses unwearied towards a higher goal;
Leaving this earth, he seeks a brighter prize,
And claims a crown immortal in the skies.
The child of pleasure may despise his aim,
And heap reproach upon the Christian’s name,
May laugh his faith, as foolishness, to scorn: –
These by the man of God are meekly borne.
His glorious hope no infidel can shake;
Her suffers calmly for his Saviour’s sake.–

The world’s poor votary seeks in vain for peace:
He cannot bid the voice of conscience cease
Its dire upbraidings; in his heartless course
He meets at every turn the fiend Remorse,
Who glares upon him with his tearless eye,
That sears his heart – but mocks its agony.
He hears that voice, amid the festive throng,
Speak in the dance and murmur in the song,
A death-bell, pealing in the midnight chime,
Whose awful tones proclaim the lapse of time,
And e’er the winged moments as they fly
Seem to proclaim – “Rash mortal, thou must die!
Soon must thou tread the path thy fathers trod,
And stand before the judgment-seat of God!”–
He hears – but seeks in pleasure’s cup to drown
The dread that weighs his ardent spirit down;
Derides the warning voice in mercy sent;
Rejects the thought of after-punishment;
In folly’s vortex wastes the spring of youth,
Nor, till death summons, owns the awful truth;
Feels it too late to calm the agonies
Remorse has kindled – and despairing, dies!

But in the breast where true religion reigns
There is a balm for all these mental pains;
A sweet contentment, felt, but undefined,
A full and free surrender of the mind
To its divine original; a trust
Which lifts to heaven the dweller of the dust.
The pilgrim, glowing with a hope divine,
Counts not the distance to the heavenly shrine;
He meets with guardian spirits on the road,
Who cheer his steps and ease his heavy load.
Serenely journeying to a better clime
He does not shudder at the lapse of time;
But calmly drinks the cup of mortal woe,
And finds that peace the world cannot bestow;
That promised joy which brightens all beneath,
And smooths his pillow on the bed of death;
That perfect love which casteth out all fear;
And wafts his spirit to a happier sphere! –

Fame is a dream – the praise of man as brief
As morning dew upon the folded leaf;
The summer sun exhales the pearly tear,
And leaves no trace of his existence there.
Seek not for immortality below,
But fix your hopes beyond this vale of woe,
That when oblivion gathers round thy sod,
A lasting record may be found with God!

[This lengthy poem comes from a book by Susanna Moodie, Enthusiasm and Other Poems,  published in 1831, the year before she and her husband came to Canada.]

Lazy thinking

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason (Proverbs 26:16).

My mother told the story of a poor farmer extolling the virtues of socialism to his neighbour who was even poorer.

“If everyone who has more than they need would share with those who do not have enough, what a wonderful place this world would be!”

“Sooo, does that mean that if you had two cows you would give me one?”

“Of course.”

“If you had two horses, you would give me one?”

“Certainly.”

“And if you had two pigs, you would give me one?”

“Oh come on now, that’s going too far. You know I have two pigs!”

That is the thinking of a sluggard. Sharing is a wonderful thing, if it means that you are giving to me. If I have to give something away, that is quite a different matter.

We all know people like that. If McDonald’s charges them five cents too much for a coffee, they are filled with indignation for days. If they see an opportunity to pick up a dollar that does not belong to them, it does not seem to cause the slightest twinge to their conscience.

Still, the majority of the people around us are honest; if they see a dollar laying around, they will try to find the owner. Why? Why is it that so many people still have a clear sense of right and wrong, even though they believe that we are just random agglomerations of protoplasm that appeared for no particular reason or purpose?

Isn’t this the reasoning of a sluggard? If there is a purpose for my existence, then there must somewhere be Someone who is the reason behind all that exists. The sluggard does have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, but wants to believe that this sense is just an evolutionary survival instinct. He would rather believe that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances and that he will never have to give account for cutting corners in life to the Lord of all that exists.

This is lazy thinking. If one seeks to search the reason for our sense of right and wrong, it quickly appears illogical that it could simply have arisen in response to the survival of the fittest in a dog eat dog world. Where then does our conscience come from? Evolution cannot even explain consciousness, let alone conscience.

There are people around us who appear to have stilled their conscience. Have they really succeeded? Or have they simply chosen to live with the terrors that dwell in their mind, hoping with all their might that death will be the end of it?

One of the greatest arguments for the existence of God is that those who have repented of the wrong they have done are blessed with a peaceful mind and a heart that forgives others who have wronged them.

A peaceful farmer

This is a story I heard many years ago.  It was told as an actual happening, I think the location may have been in Ontario and the time at least 100 years ago.

A Mennonite farmer, we’ll call him Samuel,  one day noticed a large quantity of grain was missing from one of his bins.  Being a peaceful man, he told no one about it, not even his wife.

Months passed, then one day a neighbour dropped by to pass the time of day with Samuel.  During the conversation, he casually remarked, “Say, I heard you had some grain stolen a while back.”

Samuel replied, just as calmly: “Well, if I were you I wouldn’t tell anybody about it, because you and I are the only two people who know it happened.”

I never heard what the neighbour did next, but evidently his troubled conscience had pushed him into revealing his guilt.

 

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