In my last article, I spoke about the idea that some attempt to brush aside past wrongs from their conscience. It would be a mistake that any of us should suppose that Believers are not tempted to do the same thing. Many Christians do experience bad consciences due to unconfessed sin. The Christian that fails to deal with his sins is reminded about the consequences he must face. The Bible is explicit about those who attempt to conceal their sins will not prosper (Pro. 28:13). Adam attempted to hide, but God found him and led him to deal with his disobedience. Instead of avoidance and denial the Christian must confess sin and repent of it. If, he does, God assures us that the redeemed will receive mercy.
Yet, the world seeks to squelch any talk about guilty consciences by training people to ignore feelings of personal guilt. Therapists, who seek to boost their patients self-image, and instead of bringing them to see that their bad behaviour is the cause for their guilt, they look to blame childhood upbringing, repressed feelings as Freud imagined, or lack of education. The idea of feeling guilty is not conducive to dignity and self-esteem. But the Bible teaches that personal guilt is real and that the aim of the conscience is to recognize it and inform us so that we can deal with it.
An important section on conscience in the Bible is found in 1 Cor. 10:23-33. If applied it would serve to mend internal divisions and guide the Corinthians into a Christ honouring fellowship. Paul speaks in positive tones throughout this section. He begins by stating a universal Christian principal that love does not seek its own good but that of others. Love’s objective is to limit its own liberties for the sake of edifying Church members. However, love alone is not sufficient for even our inner man has been tainted by sin. Yet, love in conjunction with Gods moral laws ingrained in all of us is more than suitable to meet the challenge that guilt presents. Shakespeare once wrote that “the disease of an evil conscience is beyond the practice of all the physicians in the world.” For the Believer the solution is not denial or blame-shifting, but to face our sinful actions and confess them to Christ and make restoration, if need be.
A major dilemma that Paul sought to resolve was dealing with wounded consciences over the issue of eating meats previously offered to idols. At that time much of the meat that had been previously offered to pagan gods was being sold in the marketplace and some Believers were upset that it was being eaten by some of their own Brethren. Facing these conditions, Paul taught that Christians are to restrict themselves from doing things that may cause others to stumble. One of the ways that today’s Christian may become a stumbling block to fellow Believers may be over their sedimentary approach to church attendance. Many Christians absent themselves from Church meetings on a regular basis. Several years ago, while at a prayer meeting, a new convert was somewhat surprised and even disheartened over the seeming lack of interest in prayer by those not in attendance. It was not too long afterwards that she too stopped coming to meetings. Christians should be concerned about their own example before the Church and the world. To deny your conscience when it is telling you to do something which you choose to avoid will only hamper its effectiveness and may in fact affect others as well. Some think that a conscience will clear itself in time but that is wrong; it will only fester and create anxiety and other emotional problems. In order to maintain a clear conscience confession and forgiveness of sin is needful. A clear conscious is an indication that the spiritual whole is healthy. In the Holy Scripture conscience is sometimes referred to as the “heart”. In the Sermon on the mount the Lord Jesus Christ compared conscience to the “eyes” by which can be seen the moral condition of the individual. The eye is the lamp for the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your light is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness. (Mat. 6:22-23)