Jeremiah 6:15 Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord.
Romans 1:32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Edgar Allen Poe. Ever read any of his short stories? One that stands out is called the “Tell Tale Heart” – a story of a man who kills his roommate and buries him under the floorboards. The crime is perfect and he is sure to get away with it, but for one thing. He begins to hallucinate that he can hear the man’s heart beating and it drives him to confess! The point of the story is how one’s conscience, even a crazy one, will motivate people to change behavior. I am sure that all of us can remember when we did something wrong and were miserable until we confessed. That is our conscience working as it should. It is something that God has given to us. We see the first example of this when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and immediately realized they were naked and ashamed. They tried to cover and hide.
The conscience is an immaterial part of all people that either excuses or accuses the correctness of our behavior. Its function is like that of an umpire in a game. The umpire does not determine what is wrong or right, but takes his cues from an outside source such as the rule book. So if the rules are changed, so will the umpire’s response, based on what is acceptable or not. So it is with our conscience. It takes its cues from an outside source, be that society, legislation or God’s word. If any of those codes of conduct change then the conscience will adapt to what is now acceptable or not. Paul describes the conscience this way in Romans 2:15: “For when Gentiles who do not have the law do instinctively the things of the Law these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” Even unbelievers who do not have the clear declaration of God’s law understand the concept of right and wrong, even if those definitions are twisted.
Going back to Poe’s story, the crime of murder was clearly understood to be a wrong thing to do. In 1843 when the story was written, murder was a capital offense and was a shocking event when it took place. Not only was it a crime legally, but it was also understood from God’s word that only God or designated human authority had the right to take a life. This clear declaration both legally and morally had been absorbed by the conscience of the murder and manifested itself in the sound of a beating heart that drove him to confess to his heinous crime!
But our conscience can be adjusted or seared. The more sin is redefined as less than sinful, the more that good is declared to be wrong our conscience will adjust to the new input and accuse or defend accordingly. Paul shares in I Tim. 4 that in the later times some will fall away from the faith by believing deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons and that by saying one thing but doing another their consciences are seared. Ever sear meat? It’s done to seal in the juices, it creates a barrier on the outside. So it is with our conscience, we can say one thing and then live another way, and by doing so we slowly sear our conscience and make it less sensitive to the truth. Our culture does not know how to blush anymore. It is hardened to the truth of God’s word and rejects it outright. So the things that once caused us as a society to blush no longer have an effect and in reality are applauded.
What about you and me? Are there things that we used to be bothered by, but now we don’t really notice? Can we say we are more sensitive to the things that God cares about or less sensitive? As the world becomes harder and harder are we allowing the tenderizing of the Word to influence our hearts? I have to say that I need the reminder to keep faith and a good conscience (I Tim 1:19a). It takes effort and I need to adjust my thinking to the truth rather than allow the culture to adjust my thinking to it. So, does our conscience bother us? Do some things cause you to blush? Good. Ask why and seek the truth.