A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinAugust 14, 1994
All of us have past regrets. If we could turn back the hands, we would do things very differently. There are probably many things we would do differently, if we had another opportunity to do them. Perhaps we said or did something that hurt someone else, and that hurt is still hampering our relationship with that person. Or perhaps something happened to us in the past, maybe as far back as to our childhood that left deep scars and still causes us great emotional pain. The fact that we can not go back and do things differently can cause us great pain and a great feeling of remorse.
While we are experiencing the pain of difficult past memories, we can identify with David over the lost of his child to Bathsheba. After David became king over Israel, he noticed Bathsheba, who was married to a man named Uriah, and he lusted after her. After David discovered that Bathsheba was expecting his child, he arranged to have Uriah killed in battle and then he took Bathsheba to be his wife. David thought he got away with his plan until Nathan the prophet publicly exposed David’s scheme. David repented, but Nathan said that the child that would be born would die. When the child was born, David prayed and fasted in an effort to save his child’s life. However, after seven days, the child died. Surprisingly, David reacted to the baby’s death with calmness and composure. He cleansed himself and went about performing his duties. In the end, David showed the perspective of focusing only on the things that he could control. When there was no longer any hope that the infant would live, he said, “text” and concentrated on the things that were under his control or domain.
David’s display of dealing with the great loss of his child can provide a great lesson for us today. The regret that he must have felt for the death of his child and the sense of responsibility he must have bore must have been great. But he was able to still perform the tasks that he could do something about and not be completely absorbed in things and regrets that he could do nothing about.
We also will experience many feelings of guilt. However, some of the guilt feelings will actually be good or positive in our spiritual growth. When we are remorseful towards something, that can be an indication that we are making a spiritual advancement in our lives. We are taught that as we learn more truths and have a better understanding of what a spiritual life is, we will recognize more evils within us. We will see faults within us that we did not see before. Even though the guilt we experience is not very pleasant to go through, yet it can lead to a more open reception of the Lord’s Holy Spirit within us.
This can be illustrated in the story of Peter denying the Lord three times. While Peter was denying the Lord, he gave no indication that he was aware of what he was doing. It wasn’t until he heard the rooster crowing that he realized what he had done. The rooster crowing represents the dawn of a new day or state. When we advance into a deeper awareness of the life we are to live, we at the same time will recognize shortcomings that we were not aware of before. Like Peter, they can cause us to go out and wept bitterly. But when we are able to put the evils aside, and advance forward, we will emerge stronger and more effective. This can be demonstrated in the Book of Acts where Peter many times acknowledged the Lord under very perilous conditions. We can only grow by recognizing faults that were before deeply hidden.
Also, we must keep in mind that we do not see our internal loves or thoughts as clearly as we do our external states. Our shortcomings may be more vividly seen than our good points and what we have to offer in the Lord’s creation. Therefore, our sense of guilt may come as a result of not seeing the entire picture of our lives. However, we are assured that our internals, even though they may not be vividly seen as our natural states are still influencing our lives and causing our shortcomings to be brought to view. Even though the guilt and the remorse are not pleasant, it is a necessary step for as to take if we are to have spiritual growth in our lives.
Also, another positive guilt that the Writings speak about is to make ourselves guilty as one of the steps of true repentance. We must search out and acknowledge specific evils that we come across and recognize. The Writings specifically state that we are to make ourselves guilty when we recognize an evil that is within us or that we have done. Only by accepting responsibility, which is done or meant by making ourselves guilty, will we have protection from excusing or justifying our faults. When we acknowledge them and take responsibility for them, then we are in a position to remove them. Part of the temptation in confronting our faults is to find excuses for them. But the more we can confess them for what they are, and accept responsibility for them, the more they can be actually dealt with and removed. When evils are justified, they linger with us. When they are openly confessed and we take responsibility for them, then they are easier to shun as sins against the Lord and for us to begin to live a new life.