Jiminy Cricket was right!

Let your conscience be your guide.  Scary words.  Scary because if that’s the teaching then no one can stop the murderer from murdering you.  Scary because if it’s true then no one can stop your husband from leaving you or from your parents from neglecting you.  Scary because consciences are so ignored, so marginalized, so twisted.  It seems pure relativism to say, “Let your conscience be your guide.”  And it is pure relativism.  But it’s still true.

The Apostle says that one man eats meat and another doesn’t; one man calls one day holy and another doesn’t.  Who’s right?  Both.  Let them be clean in their conscience (cf. Ro. 14:22).  The question is not what does your conscience allows or does not allow.  The question is: to what is your conscience captive?  If your conscience is captive to your feelings, then you will do things that pacify, stimulate, or otherwise serve your feelings. If you conscience is captive to your desire for wealth, then you will justify anything that makes you money.  Consider that even the drug dealer has  a family to feed.  He may well argue that it is irrelevant how he feeds his family as long as he does.  If your conscience is captive to the opinions of others then you will justify anything as long as others feelings aren’t hurt.  The point is, whatever captivates your conscience, whatever your conscience is related to (relativism), that will dictate your motivations, your words, and your deeds.  And we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean, having sinned against God by thought, word, and deed.  Our conscience is captivate to ourselves (bad relativism).

But now Christ has captivated our conscience (good relativism).  Indeed, for the faithful, Christ is our conscience.  This is what it means to have our conscience captivated (or bound to) the Word of God.  Do as you would do, only submit your conscience to the Word of God.  If the Word of God condemns your conscience, repent.  If it does not, rejoice!  And if others condemn you, Christ has set you free.

Now here is the objection: so everyone can do whatever and get away with it?  Yes.  You are not your neighbor’s judge.  You are not your parishioner’s judge.  You are not Lord.  You preach the Word, but do not judge your neighbor for there is One who is Judge.  But also, No.  We won’t “get away with it.”  We can do this or that and claim that our conscience is bound to the Word of God, but if this is false, or we have lied about God’s Word, then we are judged.  So we strive to study the Word of God so that we do not tell lies about it or profane the name of God among us.   So the Apostle says, “If we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31).  But we do not judge the consciences of others. (We do judge confession based on the Word of God (1 Cor. 5:9-13).  So that if someone says that the bread that we break is not really the Body of Christ, we can judge and condemn that.  But even here we are not the judge, but the Word of God is the judge.  Even here we don’t condemn the person to hell, but merely place their confession (that it is not the body of Christ) under the Word of Christ that says it is and let God be the judge.  So if someone is a liar, a swindler, a meddler, a drunkard, etc., it is God’s Word that condemns them, not us.)

It is scary to let the conscience of others be their guide.  Because then we can’t control them.  Because then we have to trust God’s Word.  We are not their guide.  The Lord is.  And He guides both them and us by His Word.  Which is why we submit ourselves to the Word of God, the apostolic and prophetic writings of those to whom God gave the grace to be bearers of His Word for our sakes.  Submit to the Word and let your conscience be your guide.

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