” I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”Acts 24:16 NIV – The Apostle Paul
Striving to maintain a clear conscience is honorable, right, healthy and important. But is intentional, deliberate and hard work. Maintaining a clear conscience keeps us connected to others and helps us to override selfishness.
My hunch is that during this season, there have been ample opportunities for selfishness, personal conflicts, and ruffled feathers in our family or at work relationships. So let’s look into our conscience and put the focus on it and it’s partner – guilt.
Carrying around guilt, the weight of one’s own conscience, literally weighs us down. It actually makes us feel heavier. Science has done studies showing that to be true..
Because guilt is meant to play a role in regulating moral behavior it sends signals throughout the body, and the body responds with perception changes, insomnia, loss of appetite, stress, headaches, backaches and a general sense of feeling dreary. Or it responds with the strong motivation to apologize, correct or make up for the wrong. Perhaps, it even does all of those things in your life.
Another writer, describes guilt, or not having a clear conscience this way, “When I kept it all inside, my dishonesty devastated my inner life, causing my life to be filled with frustration, irrepressible anguish, and misery. The pain never let up, for your conviction was heavy on my heart. My strength was sapped, my inner life dried up like a spiritual drought within my soul.” Psalm 32:3-4, TPT King David
The power of guilt is terrifying. The worry of guilt is debilitating. Being consumed with what I did or didn’t do, what I thought or didn’t think, how I harmed another individual, what I said or should have said, all these cause pain and anguish inside of us. “It is overwhelming and a burden too heavy to bear” King David cried in Psalm 38:4
Here, is where our conscience kicks in. Therefore, what is conscience?
Oswald Chambers describes conscience this way, “The ability within me that attaches to the highest standard I know and reminds me of what that standard demands that I do.”
That explains to me why two people can face the exact same moral dilemma and come away with two totally different answers for what is “right’ in that situation. Their “highest standard” is different. Both could even engage in that moral dilemma and state it quite differently – one could feel no sense of guilt or remorse while the other will hold to the belief that they have done something wrong and need to right it, and them self.
We see this played out everyday in our family, neighborhood, church, media, politics, everywhere. As many people as there are, will determine the variety of standards there will be.
So for today at least, let’s assert God’s standard. It is the highest possible standard for my mind and heart to attach to. God’s standard is His perfect law. His Word.
His law is not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 NIV
His law is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, firm, more valuable than gold, and sweeter than honey. Psalm. 19:7-10 NIV
When I apply His Word to my guilt, what happens?
Well, as mentioned above, if I keep silent or ignore any guilt or wrongdoing when in fact there should be guilt because I have wronged someone, then that is where the psychological consequences kick in and the cycle of guilt plays out: 1. should 2. action/inaction 3. guilt
But the other option in the face of guilt and God’s word is – “I acknowledge my guilt and do not cover it up… and you forgive the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5
When we see that the purpose of guilt is to restore relationship and we admit our need for that restoration, we receive his forgiveness, His cleansing and restoration. We admit our need to Him and he forgives us. Psalm 51 In this process, we learn to take action as needed, move on from it and learn from our mistakes. Our conscience is then cleared before God and man.
Clearing our conscience is vital for healthy living. Allowing things to build up, unresolved, unaddressed is of no value to you or your health. Keeping our conscience sensitive to Him means staying open on the inside and addressing needed issues each day.
We are charged in scripture to not let the sun go down on our anger. We are reminded that His mercies are new every morning. This indicates the daily practice of taking out the trash of our cluttered conscience, and not allowing guilt, grudges, or messy life decisions to pile up.
Blessed is the one, whose sin is not counted against him and in whom is no deceit. Psalm 32:2
Having a clear conscience keeps us connected to others and to God.
That is why we “strive always to keep a clear conscience”. I hope it’s a conscience held to the highest standard of God’s Word. But that choice is yours.
Cheers to you.