7.2 " It's OK in my conscience"
The unreliabilty of our conscience is discussed in Self-Examination
(Study 3.5.5). In any case, our conscience is not going to jump out
of us and stand and judge us at the day of judgment. There is one thing
that will judge us, the word of the Lord (Jn. 12:48), not how far we have
lived according to our conscience. We need to define 'conscience'. It
seems to be used by many as effectively meaning 'our inner feelings'.
Whether people live according to their inner convictions is not the standard
of acceptability with God. We are warned time and again that the human
heart is so deceptive that we do not know how evil it is (Jer. 17:9);
it is the human heart (not a supernatural 'devil') which leads us into
sin and temptation (Mk. 7:15, 21-23; James 1:13-15). Paul says that although
he does not feel he has done anything wrong, this does not of itself mean
that he is justified in God's sight (1 Cor. 4:4). We cannot, therefore,
place too much importance on living according to our natural sense of
right and wrong. This is the very error which has led gay 'Christians'
to interpret the Bible in the light of their own wayward desires, rather
than allowing themselves to be taught by God's word. " It's OK in
my conscience" is their only justification. They and many others
give more credibility to what they perceive to be guidance coming from
within them, than to God's word of Truth. The words of the Lord Jesus
in Lk. 11:35 seem especially relevant: " Take heed that the light
which is in you is not darkness" . " It's OK in my conscience"
is indeed dark light.
And yet there is Bible teaching concerning the need to live in accordance
with our 'conscience', and the joy which is possible for the believer
who has a clear conscience (e.g. Acts 24:16; Rom. 14:18-22; 2 Cor.
1:12; 1 Jn. 3:21). This must mean, in the context, the conscience which
God's word has developed in us- it cannot refer to 'conscience' in the
sense of our natural, inbuilt sense of right and wrong; because according
to the Bible, this is hopelessly flawed. The fact the " conscience"
is " cleansed" by Christ's sacrifice (Heb. 9:14; 10:22) proves
that the Biblical 'conscience' is not the natural sense of right and wrong
within our nature; for our nature can never be 'purged' or 'cleansed',
the believer will always have those promptings within him to do
wrong. The cleansed, purged conscience refers to the new man that is created
within the believer at baptism. This new 'conscience' is not just a sense
of guilt which is invoked on account of not living an obedient life; it
is also a conscience which positively compels us to do something,
not just threatens us with a pang of guilt if we commit a sin.
" It's OK in my conscience" is only acceptable when understood
Thus when Christians claim to be 'conscientious objectors' to military
service, we are not only saying that our conscience will prick us unacceptably
if we bear arms; we are making a positive statement that our conscience,
the new man that has been developed in us by God's word, compels us to
positively live a life of love and non-resistance to evil, which compulsion
in itself excludes us from taking life.