…seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.
1 Tim 4:2
an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3“These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.…
Oswald Chambers in his book “Biblical Psychology” describes conscience as being like the eye that colours everything we see depending on how it is enlightened. He says (Chapter 16, section 1):
“Probably the best illustration of conscience is the human eye. The eye records what it looks at, and conscience may be pictured as the eye of the soul recording what it looks at, and, like the eye, it will always record exactly what it is turned towards.”
He then talks about how we can look at something with the human eye and interpret what we see based on our experience of similar things we have looked at in the past – therefore not seeing with innocence. Therefore,
“The recording power of conscience may be distorted or perverted and conscience itself may be seared.”
He then uses another analogy about how things can look differently depending on the colour of the light you are looking at it in:
“Then again, if you throw a white light on trees, the eye records that the trees are green; if you throw a yellow light on the trees, the eye records that the trees are blue; if you throw a red light on trees, the eye records that the trees are brown. Your logical faculties will tell you all the time that the trees are green, but the point of the illustration is that the eye has no business other than to record what it looks at; and it is the same with conscience.”
Or in other words, conscience is to the soul what the eyes are to the body. Hence the reason Jesus talks about the “eye” of the body being clear in Matthew 6:22:
“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!…”
This verse doesn’t just make literal sense, it also makes sense if you substitute conscience for eye and body for soul. In fact that is probably the main way Jesus meant it to be understood:
“The conscience is the lamp of the soul; so then if your conscience is clear, your whole soul will be full of light. 23“But if your conscience is bad, your whole soul will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!…”
Note that the eye/ conscience is the lamp but not the light itself. It is just a carrier of the light recording what goes through it. A bad conscience or eye can be that way because of what is going through it – though in some ways the analogy begins to break down at this point.
But we can see from these verses that having a good conscience is so important. Just like a bad eye leaves the body in darkness, so a bad conscience leaves the soul in the same way. You can also mistake the little light you have that is in you as being the light you should live by. As Jesus points out “how great is that darkness!”
We see this all the time in the lives of the Muslim fanatics. Their consciences are bad since they have been taught that doing evil is good. Ask a fanatic Muslim what should happen to a convert from Islam to Christianity and they will tell you that he should be killed and that by his older brother. Hence the fear that rules in those societies where this is believed. And hence their bad consciences.
Oswald goes on to illustrate how much the conscience can be affected and how unreliable it can be by giving the example of the Apostle Paul (chapter 16, section 1. c):
” “I verily thought with myself,” i.e., according to conscience, “that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). If conscience is the voice of God, we have a nice problem to solve! Saul was the acme of conscientiousness.”
Then he goes on to say: “It is not sufficient for a Christian to live up to the light of his conscience; he must live in a sterner light, the light of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So we shouldn’t be surprised at ISIS or other evil fanatics considering that they are doing the right thing for God and believing it to death. It doesn’t change the fact that the light that is in them is darkness.
Our only hope is that they will encounter Jesus like Paul did and repent:
“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
1 Timothy 1:12-17.
As in all things, the local church of Jesus Christ on the ground in these places is the only hope they have. By contrast, US and Israeli arms will just send them to hell quicker.
My prayer is that my brethren who are being crucified and suffering in the Middle East will not do so in vain and that in their suffering they will also know the overwhelming comfort of Jesus as they go to be with Him.