A conscience is a gift from God. Even if we don’t heed it beforehand, it’s not too late.
Afterward David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off an edge of Saul’s robe.1 Samuel 24:5
When I was a boy, my parents taught me that I should listen to my conscience, that sense of right and wrong inside my head. It was a gift from God, they said, to help me make good decisions. They added that if I ignored my conscience too much, it would gradually become desensitized like skin seared by a hot iron.
I didn’t like the sounds of that too much, but still it didn’t keep me from flat-out ignoring my conscience sometimes (Okay, often). You could say my relationship with my conscience was kind of like a relationship with a girlfriend I once had…on-again, off-again.
One of the things I appreciate about the character of David in the Bible is that while he deeply loved God, his narrative includes both wins and losses. He was usually focused but he had his moments. He had moments when he listened to his conscience, even if it meant confronting a beligerant hulk , but he also had moments when he plugged his ears and kept going right into stupidity (i.e. the Bathsheba affair).
And there was the time that David didn’t listen to his conscience beforehand, but he did so afterwards. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too late. Maybe you remember the story of when David cut off a corner of King Saul’s robe? David was hiding (from Saul) in a cave when Saul slipped in to relieve himself. No doubt, David’s conscience was working hard in that moment as he processed his thoughts of what to do with the opportunity for vengeance against this murderous king.
Oddly, David settled on hacking off a corner of Saul’s robe. No big deal? Compared to murder, this was nothing. After all, everyone cuts corners from time to time, right?
But David’s conscience wouldn’t let it go. Saul was still the king and David felt badly even for this minor act of aggression toward him. So, David confessed it. He confessed to his men, to God, and to Saul. The deed had already been done, but it wasn’t too late to move with his conscience. Better late than never.
If we confess our sin, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
Mom and Dad were right. Life is a maze of moral and ethical choices and the bad ones are the most convenient, the most accessible, and seemingly the most fun. Without a healthy conscience we’re like a dead fish floating downstream, unable to swim against the current of (1) our own sinful desires; and (2) an increasingly amoral culture.
Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit, who works in and with our consciences to help us make our way. That inner sense of wrong and right is an asset like no other, a true gift from God.
And for those of us who have ignored our consciences far too long, there’s good news. Because of the Cross, a neglected conscience can be restored.
Like David, may the Lord help us to move with our conscience today – not against. Better late than never.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.