Rock-Solid Apology

for the week of April 23, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

"I took this piece from the Acropolis a long time ago," said the note. "I am very sorry. Please return it to where it belongs."

The note of apology was unsigned, and its author's identity remains a mystery. It was received at the Greek consulate in Houston earlier this year along with a small piece of marble. The episode was announced by the Greek Ministry of Culture in Athens last month. The ministry said the rock would be entrusted to the archaeological service to determine the area of the ancient Acropolis to which it should be restored.

Stories like this one may become rare. It is conscience that causes people to write apology notes and to return purloined items. And conscience is not being cultivated by this generation. It is considered a liability rather than a moral virtue.

Conscience is an internal monitor of behavior. It functions much as a blinking red light on your car's instrument panel. When your engine overheats or the oil needs changing, sensors warn you. When you tell a lie or break a promise, the inner discomfort you feel is a warning against the corruption of your character.

The tricky thing about conscience is this: Refusing to heed its warnings dulls its sensitivity and eventually disables it altogether. The Bible calls this process "hardening the heart." And a hard heart is the ruin of virtue.

Pornography is not free speech. Obscene speech is not one's right of personal expression. Lying is not acceptable so long as you are not caught. And it is not all right to turn a blind eye to racism, child abuse, poverty, and other forms of insult to the image of God that attaches to every human being.

The best way to keep your conscience intact is to pay attention to it. The workplace is still under God's sovereignty and requires integrity. People in your family are to be treated with dignity and respect. When your conscience tells you a moral boundary has been crossed, it is doing you a favor uncomfortable as the feeling is by inviting you back onto spiritually safe ground.

"While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me . . . Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgres- sions to the Lord,' and you forgave the guilt of my sin" (Psalm 32:3-5).

Just in case your conscience calls today, determine now not to hang up.



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