Whatsoever Things Are True
by Dan Coburn
Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church
Several years ago, in another part of the country, there was a man named Stewart who was, as he often had, driving while intoxicated. This time however, he happened to strike a young woman named Susan, and killed her. She was eighteen years old. There was a criminal trial in which he was convicted and although I can’t remember the sentence he received, the ensuing civil trial is hard to forget. After winning the case, Susan’s parents requested and received a very unusual judgment. 
The judgment against Stewart was for the tidy sum of $936.00.  That’s it. $936.00.  If a judge had awarded that kind of settlement the outcry would have been great; but this was the wish of the dead girls family. Her parents! You’re saying to yourself “there must be more to it than that” and you’re right. Along with the dollar amount came a stipulation that the money would be paid by check, once a week, on every Friday, in the amount of one dollar, for eighteen years. Every Friday he was to write out a check for one dollar, for every year of Susan’s life.
Initially Stewart was ecstatic thinking he had gotten off light. After-all, he could have been fined millions and now, instead, he was only going to be out $936.00. He was sure he had gotten off light and by every worldly estimation he had. However, after only a few weeks, it began to wear on him. Imagine every week making out that check and as you fill in the spaces, being reminded of the wrong deed you had done, the young life you had taken, and the pain you had caused another family. He found himself growing depressed as each Friday approached. 
He stopped the payments and Susan’s parents took him back to court where he was forced to resume–one dollar, every Friday, for eighteen years. Four times he stopped the payments, and the outcome was always the same–one dollar, every week, for eighteen years. He offered in desperation to pay the whole amount at once. No they said. He offered to pay the whole amount plus an extra year (a whole $52.00) to which they also replied, No! A dollar a week, for eighteen years. 
Stewart exclaimed and I quote; “I am haunted by Susan’s death, I am tormented by these weekly payments”. Still, in spite of his protests, a dollar a week, for eighteen years. 
To me, this is an awesome illustration of how this thing “Guilt” torments people. This is a wound which all of us over the age of five, and some even younger, have in common to one degree or another. It is one of, if not the greatest weapon in Satan’s arsenal and its purpose is twofold. 1) to keep lost people from coming to a saving knowledge of Christ, and 2) to keep Christians from ever being the effective witness God intended them to be. 
There is a healthy or good guilt. It is that which keeps us from stepping to far over the boundaries of right and wrong. We were all “hard wired” by God to have guilt, but it was always for the purpose of reconciliation. It is after all the Holy Spirit’s primary function to “convict and convince of sin”-John 16: 7-11, to show us our need. There is also an “undeserved” guilt. I have counseled children of broken homes and without exception, in spite of all the love and comfort at the hands of all concerned, the kids feel like it’s their fault. They must have done something wrong.  Ask someone who has lost a dear loved one; A child or perhaps a sibling, and if they are honest, they will tell you there are several stages of grief they go through. They are common to all, and though they don’t follow the same order, one of these is guilt. It is absolutely devastating. Every angry word or deed comes back in 3D stereo and there is nothing you can do to take it back. No way to apologize or make it right,–only guilt that is relentless.  Usually, however, our guilt is deserved. That being said, how do we deal with it?  Next week we will explore the Biblical application to dealing with guilt.  How does the world handle it, and conversely, how should we. 

Cottonwood, Idaho 83522


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