Everyone has some sense of right and wrong; what they feel is acceptable or reasonable behavior and what is not. I am even convinced that the most evil people are delusional enough to believe they are right. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes… (Prov. 21:2) People like the terrorists of 9/11, Ben Laden, and Hitler, I am sure, followed their conscience. To say that not everyone’s judgment of right and wrong is correct or united is certainly supported by these examples.
If the conscience can be wrong, and it can be, then how do we assure our sense of right and wrong is true? It all begins with what we believe. If people believe the U.S. to be Satan and Americans to be infidels then they can, in all good conscience, do what the hijackers did on 9/11. However, since their convictions are based on a false standard, their moral compass is out of balance.
When people believe error and reject the One True God, their sense of right and wrong cannot be good. Referring to Jesus, inspiration says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Practicing Jews do not believe this, and neither do Muslims, agnostics, or atheists. Their consciences, and subsequently their actions, reflect this and are wrong.
That “little voice” in our head is important for many reasons. It encourages us to stop and think before we act. The conscience serves as a governor for our behavior and scolds us when we ignore its direction. Sometimes it moves us to reevaluate our thinking and conduct, and to even make changes. Would we not all agree that the conscience is good and vital to our lives?
Even though the conscience can be wrong, it is not a good practice to defy its boundaries. (Rom. 14:23) Paul lived before God in all good conscience while persecuting Christians. (Acts 23:1) He was clearly wrong and fighting against Christ. But because Paul was true to what he believed, he had the honesty to accept truth and change the standard of his conscience. (Acts 9) If he had been in the habit of going against his sense of right and wrong, then I doubt he would have made the sacrifices he did to serve Christ.
Scripture warns Christians about having their “conscience seared with a hot iron.” (1 Tim. 4:1-3) The allusion here is one of applying a hot iron to the skin. What happens to the skin? It is cauterized and becomes rigid, stiff, and dead to feeling. This is what happens when someone departs from the faith of the gospel. Their conscience becomes rigid, stiff, and dead to the feelings of right and wrong. It becomes a matter of them doing just what they want to do regardless of the consequences.
Decisions are made knowing they are wrong or without Bible authority. Sometimes people just convince themselves something is right when they used to think it was wrong. Not that we should refuse change when facts supports the change, but often the evidence is missing. What happens is, we give up on truth. Once truth is ours, no error or deception by others should cause us to falter. There is no excuse because the light of truth overwhelms the darkness of error. The Hebrew writer says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:26-27) Keep your conscience pure.