Conscience: a great tool…when it works!

This Sunday we’re looking at the human conscience; a great tool, but one that can easily conscienceget mis-calibrated.

Mis-calibration cost NASA well over $125 million in 1999. The Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft was designed to fly to Mars, orbit around the planet, and report back on what the surface conditions were like for future exploration. Rather than circling the planet, it flew past it and rocketed out of useful range. The cause of the glitch? One team of scientists did the math using metric units, while another team of scientists used the imperial system. The mis-calibration meant that the numbers in the spacecraft’s computer were basically nonsense.

The human conscience can become mis-calibrated, too. We can become desensitized. The first time we commit a sin, we feel terribly guilty. The second time—fairly guilty. The thirtieth time, we might feel nothing. Scripture uses the language of consciences that have been seared (1 Timothy 4:2). It is also possible that our conscience can be like a smoke detector that goes off too often. It becomes the boy that cries wolf and we always are in a state of worry and anxiety.

Here are a few illustrations about conscience…

A Native American proverb says that conscience is a “triangle in my heart. It stands still when I am good, but when I am bad, it turns around and the corners hurt a lot. But if I keep on doing wrong, the corners wear off, and it does not hurt anymore.”

A Sunday school teacher asked the children in her class, “What is the still, small voice that you always have with you?” One of the kids answered, “My iPod!”

A rich man bought a house next to processing facility that smelled terrible. Unable to stand the stench, he kept trying to convince his neighbor to move, but his neighbor always put him off, saying that he would in “just a bit.” By the time this happened several times, the man got used to the smell quit pestering his neighbor.

We need to let the words of scripture calibrate our consciences, so that they will continue to be useful instruments for helping us live the Christian life.