and keep your conscience clear.
Hard to define conscience isn’t it. But we all recognise our own conscience when it shouts a warning to us. Perhaps you remember getting to the end of a day saying to yourself ‘I wish I had …’ That could be your conscience pricking you because you failed to do something – and of course it also works the other way round, reminding you that perhaps you shouldn’t have done or said something. Right at the end of this letter (1 Tim. 4:2) Paul mentions people who have a ‘dead conscience’. Another translation puts it ‘consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.’ I’m sure you will have caught yourself on something very hot and your skin has gone wrinkly-red, losing its sensitivity.
That can happen to consciences too, so that a lack of any sensitive feeling means we have lost the notion of a conscience warning us that all is not well. It is often noted that pain is a kind of physical conscience telling us that something is wrong with our bodies – without pain we would never be aware that our fingers were stuck in a fire. Pain is in fact a wonderful gift of God, warning us of some physical malfunction or mistreatment of our body. Conscience has exactly the same purpose when it comes to moral or spiritual decisions. Ignoring the gentle pleas of our conscience can land us in very deep water! It is important therefore to keep our consciences clear. If we choose to ignore these conscience-prompts we will become locked into making bad decisions and choices.
But if you do experience some discomfort in your conscience then this reading reminds us that Jesus can cleanse even the disturbed conscience.