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"DAMN'D SPOTS" THAT WON'T COME OUT (published in The Tribune 6/22/13)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:18 PM by Fccea Webmaster
"Out, damn'd spot! Out, I say!" cried Lady Macbeth as she tried to rid her soul of the guilt occasioned by helping her husband kill King Duncan. But alas, the spot remained. She had urged her husband to the crime, assuring him "[a] little water clears us of this deed." But Macbeth found that even an ocean couldn't clean his hands. Lady Macbeth found relief only in suicide.

And if you think we are beyond the need to deal with guilt, guess again. Americans spend in excess of $50 billion annually (that's "billion" with a "b") on mental therapy, most of it precipitated by guilt.

That is fascinating in light of the fact that in this age of moral relativism, there is little left to feel guilty about!

Guilt is defined as an "offense against moral or penal law." Since most people seeking therapy are not in violation of penal law, and morality is subject to individual definition, one is left to wonder what all the fuss is about. Why does the "damn'd spot" persist?

You'd think we would have arrived at the point of the prisoner who, when asked by the judge, "Guilty or not guilty?" replied, "Well, I thought I was guilty, but I've been talking to my lawyer and he's convinced me I'm not guilty." Why aren't we convinced?

The philosophy of "naturalism" that dominates our culture can't explain why morality even exists. Furthermore, the prevailing mindset says if we have managed to give offense, it is really not our fault. The blame belongs to overbearing parents, an unsympathetic school system, a fourth grade bully, the coach who refused to play me, overly rigid religious training, too many sweets, a boss's unrealistic expectations -- anyone or anything but me!

Both figuratively and literally, the word "sin" has been eliminated from our vocabulary. Yet -- the spot persists. Why?

Perhaps the spot persists because -- the guilt is real! We have failed of an accountability that has been placed in our hearts by our Creator (Rom 2:15) -- a divinely inspired "spot generator!"

This is not to deny the existence of "false guilt." Victims of abuse inevitably experience irrational guilt. In a broken world, conscience can be skewed to produce a misleading signal. But that is the rare exception. Any skewing is corrected by reference to the objective, moral standard revealed in God's Word which shows the spot to be real most of the time.

Guilt is the inner voice of God telling us that we have violated His character. It is one of His greatest gifts, letting us know we've gone off track and something must be done to rid us of the spot for His benefit and ours.

But what? What will suffice to wash it out?

Human answers crash and burn. Efforts to deny, repress, suppress, project or otherwise cover the spot are endless -- and fruitless.

God's answer is simple. "Bring the spot to the cross where My own Son died to pay the penalty for every damn'd spot. Own it. Confess it. Leave it there and for Jesus' sake, I will forgive it and I will wash it out. What you cannot do, I will do for you. Leave it to Me." It's the only spot remover that works.

If God is real, then sin is real, offense is real, and the spot is real; but the solution is also real.

In the early 1900s the editors of the Times of London asked several eminent writers to contribute pieces under the theme "What's wrong with the world?" One reply stood out. "Dear Sirs, What's wrong with the world? I am. Sincerely yours, G. K. Chesterton." That's the only way to effectively deal with guilt. Own it, and give it to Him. He's the only one who can say, "Out damn'd spot" and make it stick.

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton (