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No Compunctions

February 14, 2024 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

No Compunctions
Ash Wednesday
14 February 2024

By the Rev. Doctor Scott Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church
Houston, Texas

People can perpetrate evil with no compunctions. “Compunction” is derived from a Latin word that means to experience a prick of conscience. In medieval theology, the word was used for the most minimal embarrassment or discomfort arising from sin. Now we use the word only to refer to those scruples of conscience so trivial they are hardly worth considering. These days people only have “no compunctions” about everything. When is the last time you heard someone expressing their compunctions about any wicked deed, evil thought, or hurtful act? We are so morally anaesthetized that we no longer feel the most minimal sorrow over sin.

It is no wonder that Ash Wednesday is almost incomprehensible to us, on this background of a life with “no compunctions.” Ash Wednesday is a day when we plead guilty to all our sin. Here is something we ought to do with no compunctions: repent. There ought to be no regrets about confessing fully and truthfully our own wicked mouths, hands, and hearts. Hearts most of all! Here is the hatchery and home of all sin and filth. Repentance is not merely regret about being caught or restrained in our wicked behavior. Everyone is truly repentant by that definition. The sexually promiscuous person dying of AIDS is at least that repentant. The child with his hand in the cookie jar is at least that sorry when he is caught stealing cookies by his mother. But this is hardly godly repentance.

Repentance without compunctions means that we are willing to be humbled before God and those whom we have offended by saying what we have done that is offensive to the divine will and order and therefore hurtful to other persons, and to God. Our pride, self-righteousness and all our compunctions keep us from true repentance. Certainly, there is nothing easy or comfortable about repentance. God the Holy Spirit must wring it out of our hardened heart by crushing our self-righteousness with the law. We must hear the word of the preacher: “You are the man!” (2Sa 12:7).

A guest to our church confessed to me that she had been made uncomfortable by the service of the Lutheran Church. I simply replied, “What makes you think you should be made comfortable by attending our church?” Ash Wednesday should be a profoundly uncomfortable day for us. Some of the most important things you will ever do include great discomfort: sitting by the bedside of a dying parent or spouse, undergoing physical therapy following a car wreck, or standing naked of all claims to goodness in the presence of God and saying, “I a poor miserable sinner confess to You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You.” God the Lord has accepted the discomfort of suffering and death in our place that our iniquities might be absolved. The called servants of that crucified Christ proclaim to those who are troubled by their sin: “I forgive you.” He had no compunctions about dying for us, no compunctions about forgiving sinners.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church