Modern automobiles are equipped with sensors. When our car threw a fit and would not pass inspection, I had to take it in for repair. To my dismay, the repair did not stop the red light; but the large repair bill qualified the car to pass for another year. The engine will cease running one day and the repair bill shall pass the cost of a many sensors.
There is a correlation between a sensor and my conscience. As long as it lights up in me, I am cautious and eager to make adjustments and even repairs. If I neglect the warnings and keep going, I become used to function with a distorted conscience. Just like the red light, conscience no longer bothers me. Ultimately, I too shall end in a medical repair facility.
The Creator has equipped us with feelings and sensitivity. We all have it. But some of us require additional help. We have lost the capability of following our conscience. In fact we have lost control over our conscience. We even designed a law called free speech so we do not have to guard our unruly tongue (Ja.3: 1-12). News people and political or religious leaders, if they are of a privileged race or faith, can slander and label others as bigots and racists. It is my conscience crying out but I no longer hear it. The red light no longer bothers me and I even feel proud that I have run over people that are so much better than I am. When that happens, conscience no longer keeps me on my toes (Ro.2: 15).
I have to service and tune my conscience regularly. From whom and where can I receive assistance? I have found constant help in Jesus’ teaching. The Parable of the Good Samaritan in particular has some interesting hints about human behavior. Basically, Jesus compared two practicing religions. The religion of the priest and the Levite had hindered and limited their conscience to render assistance to the victim that was robbed and left for dead. The Samaritan that happened to follow the same Law of Moses could not leave the victim unattended. Unlike the priest and the Levite, this man’s conscience was overcome with mercy (Lk.10: 25-37).
Conscience without mercy is of no use. Without compassion or mercy it can resort to hurting others by hurting oneself. Like our ancestor Cain, we refuse to be our brother’s keeper and simply dispose of him (Gen.4: 8-12). The tendency to eliminate or reject those that need our help or differ from us is an insurmountable problem for all of us. Compare Cain with a lady called Abigail, wife of Nabal. Nabal had refused to pay David for services rendered and insulted the future king of Israel. Just when David intended to avenge himself against this merciless individual, Abigail interceded and pleaded for mercy, “…my master (David) will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself” (I Sam.25: 31). When David became king, he followed Abigail’s advice.
The need for mercy has increased in our time. It is the only virtue that can awaken our conscience and lead us to live in harmony. It was to a world like ours that Jesus urged, “Be merciful, just as your Father (God) is merciful” (Lk.6: 36).