Monday, June 8th, 2009
"Saul, for his part, was approving of the murder of [Stephen]." (Acts 8:1)
Can we just ‘let our conscience be our guide’? Well, it is good to listen to our conscience, but its message may seriously mislead us. Yes, the voice of “the man we are inside” may fail us. (2 Corinthians 4:16) Consider the case of Stephen, a devout follower of Christ “full of graciousness and power.” Some Jews threw Stephen outside Jerusalem and stoned him to death. Saul (who later became the apostle Paul) stood nearby and “was approving of the murder of” Stephen. It seems that those Jews were so convinced that they acted properly that their conscience did not trouble them. That must have been the case with Saul too, for thereafter he was “still breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Clearly, his conscience was not then speaking with an accurate voice. (Acts 6:8; 7:57-60; 9:1) Why not? Saul may have been affected by close contact with Jews who hated Jesus.
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/07, 1:11, 12)
*this reminds me of what we recently covered in chapter 2 of the "Keep Yourselves in God's Love" book, about how in some cases our conscience may be wrong. The paragraph on pg 17 illustrates it really well, "If a compass is placed near a metal object, it may be influenced to point in a direction other than north. And if it is used without an accurate map, the compass may be nearly worthless. Similarly, if unduly influenced by the selfish desires of our heart, our conscience may point us in the wrong direction. And if it is used without the sure guidance of God's Word, we may be unable to distinguish between right and wrong in many important matters. Really, in order for our conscience to work properly, we need the guidance of Jehovah's holy spirit. Paul wrote: "My conscience bears witness with me in holy spirit." (Romans 9:1) How, though, can we make sure that our conscience is in harmony with Jehovah's holy spirit? It is a matter of training."
The footnote on pg 18 adds: "The Bible shows that having a clear conscience is not always sufficient. For example, Paul said: "I am not conscious of anything against myself. Yet by this I am not proved righteous, but he that examines me is Jehovah." (1 Corinthians 4:4) Even those who persecute Christians, as Paul once did, may do so with a clear conscience because they think that God approves of their course. It is vital that our conscience be both clear in our eyes and clean in God's eyes. (Acts 23:1; 2 Timothy 1:3)"
And being that Paul (Saul) knew 'the law' as well as he did, it seems like in his case, that last sentence of the text summary -about how he "may have been affected by close contact with Jews who hated Jesus" -adds a bit more clarity to the picture. Because you see that all the time with extremist groups today who persecute others. There's always a few 'ring leaders' who use feelings of prejudice or nationalism to fan the flames and get their buddies or followers all worked up into a frenzy thinking they're doing the right thing or what God wants them to.