We are all born with some sense of right and wrong. In addition, we are also taught the difference between right and wrong.
For instance, the reason you don’t throw food on the floor is because someone taught you not to do that. You were not born with that awareness.
Even though we have a built-in sense of right and wrong about some things, your conscience must be informed in other areas.
In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul spoke to this issue. He was speaking about Gentile people not Jewish people. For the Jewish people, the Old Testament law was a way of informing their conscience. But the Gentiles were not exposed to the Ten Commandments like the Jews. They didn’t understand how what was in their heart was connected to God’s law.
Paul said, “When outsiders (Gentiles) who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience.” He goes on to speak of the fact that “God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation.
“There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong.” This is the role of the conscience. (See Romans 2:14-15 The Message)
Gentiles were doing what was in the law, not because it was in the law or because they intended to obey the law, but because these oughts and ought-nots had been written on their hearts.
Even apart from the law, they knew they had no business taking things that did not belong to them. They understood that killing another person was wrong. So the role of the conscience was pointing out what was wrong and affirming what was right.
The conscience takes whatever information you put into it, and it confirms or condemns, based on a general sense of right and wrong along with whatever it is that has informed our conscience.
Beyond the basic rights and wrongs, you have been taught that certain things ought and ought not be. Our personal conscience helps shape our family conscience, our community conscience, our corporate conscience, all the way to our national conscience.
So, what informs or shapes the national conscience in America today? As Americans, there are things that feel right to us and things that feel wrong to us. Why is that? Where does this come from? Why do these things differ from culture to culture? Why do these things seem to evolve over time? What changed? We’ll find out next time.
You can read Steve Greene’s blog at pastorgreene.wordpress.com or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.