Goodbye, Guilty Conscience

HAVE you ever been sitting in class and had someone come in and give a message to the teacher saying that the principal would like to see you in his office? An unexpected call like that can be nerve-racking, even if one has a clear conscience. But if we've done something wrong, even in secret, it can be really frightening. That's one of the prices we pay when we do something wrong--fear gets a hold on us. Walking down the hallway, we imagine all kinds of things. We feel guilty. We wonder what will happen to us. We wish we had never done it, whatever it was.

If you've ever had such an experience, you'll probably agree with what Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, says in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``It were better to be exposed to every plague on earth than to endure the cumulative effects of a guilty conscience'' (p. 405). Imagine what it must be like for the people you see on television who have done something wrong. They must wonder how they ever got themselves into such a mess.

Yet even in school people get themselves into pretty bad situations. People may bring guns and knives into school, and then when they're angry or just trying to show off they try to use them. Other people experiment with sex before marriage and find that they've become pregnant or an expectant father. It seems as though there are so many ways to get into trouble.

Because such things happen so often, it's really worth taking a whole new look at the Ten Commandments in the Bible. They're found in the book of Exodus (20:3-17). They are designed to save us from going through any of these kinds of experience. In a way the Commandments say ``If you want to be free of the terror of a guilty conscience, free of the deep problems people get themselves into, these are the things to do and to avoid.'' God's love is so strong that one of the first things He revealed to Moses was these laws that keep us safe and free from harm.

Have you ever read Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 through 7 in Matthew's Gospel? If so, you've probably noticed that it tells us how to follow the Commandments. These spiritual laws tell us that if we want to be free from guilt, if we want to escape the things that make people angry at us and even hate us, if we don't want our world to cave in around us--here are important guides. More than this, if we want to have a strong sense of how real God is and to know that His love and care are always at work in our lives, we need to follow these rules.

Jesus taught that it's important to watch our thinking. If we let anger in the door, we're in danger of losing our temper, even hurting someone. If we start thinking about sex all the time or wishing we had someone else's bicycle or CD, we're in increasing danger of doing things we'll regret. Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health, ``You must control evil thoughts in the first instance, or they will control you in the second'' (p. 234). How do we do this? Sometimes it seems awfully hard.

The prophet Zephaniah pointed out, ``The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy'' (3:17). God's power and will are at work in man, His image and likeness--that's us. Now, God's help is the best help there is! To be aware of God's power gives us the victory over bad thoughts. We deny them. We refuse them. They disappear. When we have no other gods--when we remember that God is the only God, the only power, the only Mind--we begin feeling His goodness influencing us. We have freedom. We realize we reflect divine intelligence. We're no longer enslaved by thoughts we don't like.

The more we acknowledge God's presence, the more we can prove we are governed by Him. We feel Christ at work in our lives. We have a better time. There's more harmony at home and at school. We do better than ever before. And we never suffer from a guilty conscience.

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