When I was a little girl, I once stole a roll of Choco-Peppermint Lifesavers.
I remember it well even now (which is a miracle considering that I can’t remember what I went into the kitchen to find five minutes ago!) probably because it was one of the first and most important lessons that my parents bequeathed me in building conscience.
I was in a store with my mother. It was a small store and I imagine that I was probably bored with the whole shopping ‘bit’ at that age. I must have been about five years old. The idea of anything chocolate always made my mouth water–even at that age.
Lifesavers were small and easily pocketed.
No one would see.
The very nature of that candy tantilized me.
I don’t think my mother had even told me “No.”
I wanted it, had to have it, and quickly put that roll in my pocket.
I forget where we were when my mother discovered the theft. I do remember that I was sucking on one of those Lifesavers, however. (You aren’t particularly smart at five!) But I remember my mother’s face and voice…the disappointment, the shame, and her reaction. “Those don’t belong to you. You stole them.”
Her next words are inscribed in my heart even now…’You are going to have to take them back to the owner. We will let him decide what he should do.”
Face the person that I stole from?
Sheer terror held me in place. I couldn’t think of a greater punishment. I, the guilty party, had to face the person I had injured through my behavior and await his judgment?
In those days, a pack of Lifesavers probably cost about a nickle.
Back we walked to the store.
What the owner said, I don’t remember. I was crying too hard. The idea of facing him, of my mother’s disappointment in me, of being forced to admit my deceit…well, that feeling has lasted a lifetime.
Whatever the owner and my mother may have said over the issue I don’t remember. I do remember that he told me that he hoped the feelings I was experiencing would make an impression upon me and that I would think of this if I ever felt the urge to steal again.
You learn a lot by the time you are five. You learn not to touch a hot stove. You learn to look both ways before crossing a street. You may even learn that it is not wise to try to hold a cat who has claws when they want to be free.
My mother and that store owner began the process of teaching me about conscience.
1 John 1: 9&10- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
The world has changed in many ways. One of the most dangerous changes that I see is a growing lack of conscience. Without acknowledging our knowingly bad behavior (sin) and accepting the responsibility for our actions, we become hardened. Hardened to the point where we believe that ‘anything goes’ and sin is ‘justified’. We are not simply ignoring confessing our sinful behavior, we have actually begun going down the route where we are advocate that sin is fine as long as you don’t get caught.
Imagine a world where this principle is eradicated. Anything goes. Any practice acceptable. Wrong is right. Justice is no longer blindfolded but stands with open eyes surveying her broken scales in horror as she has no further weight in the world in which we live.
Without conscience, we have anarchy.
The disciple John walked, talked, ate, slept, and lived with Jesus. He’s witnessed His miracles and His everyday exsistence. He studied and meditated with Him over Scripture. He understood Jesus’ attitude…toward the adulterous woman, toward the denying Peter, toward the woman who touched His cloak, even toward the religious leaders who were against Him.
He understood Jesus’ death and resurrection was based on offering Himself for our sins…but that in doing so He expected us to identify said sins and ask forgiveness. John is pointing out, in no uncertain terms, that if we ignore our behavior…if we pretend that we are better that others…then we put Christ and what He gave to us in the position of liar. By that, we show not simply our ignorance but our separation for what Jesus Christ stands for!
It is easy to become swept up thinking that WE have all the answers; that we are always right in our viewpoints; that we have advanced to the point where we can overthrow laws and behavior that we don’t approve of and take matters into our own hands for the ‘good’ of the situation.
When you think upon that for a bit, what we are pretending is that we are like God.
God created us with a conscience so humans do not descend into the behavior of animals–thinking only of surviving over all else and utilizing any methods in which to do so.
The lessons imparted to instill conscience in ourself and others are some of the most important ones that we learn…