Acts 24:16-“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”
I don’t know about you, but, for me, my mouth has the tendency to get me into a lot of trouble. I can think of numerous nights where I couldn’t sleep because I felt so bad about something I said. The guilt weighed on my conscience, as I knew the right thing to do would be to just keep my mouth shut and let things go...but... I didn’t. I didn’t do the right thing, I didn’t restrain myself, I didn’t just let it go, and I was left feeling terrible! Whether it’s the result of a wrong you’ve committed, a mistake you made, or words that you can’t take back, a guilty conscience is a heavy load to bear. This came to mind as I read Paul’s words today, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”
Paul had just been captured by an angry mob, falsely accused, and thrown before the Governor in hopes of a quick judgment and decisive punishment. In this unfair circumstance, Paul was poised, calm, and unafraid to stand before Felix. As he made his defense, this sentence in the middle of his speech stood out to me as the source of his confidence:
“So I”- Paul took complete responsibility and ownership over his own conscience. He didn’t point blame at others, he didn’t make excuses, and he didn’t run from the fact that he was accountable for his own actions. I wonder how many times I’ve blamed others for my poor choices or disobedience. I wonder how many times I’ve justified my pride and lack of forgiveness by faulting others.
“…strive always”- Paul acknowledges that living this way takes constant effort and work. It doesn’t come naturally to love others, to be at peace with others, or to die to my emotions and desires for the sake of blessing others. It’s not a one-time decision but a continual choice, and I have to be willing to choose to strive.
“…before God and man”-Before God: Paul knew he had done everything he could to remain obedient to God, to be faithful to His calling, and to fulfill the things God asked of him. Before man: Paul had done all he could to be a peacemaker, to help others when he could, and to not stir up trouble but to point people to God.
So today I commit to striving for a clear conscience by doing all I can to be obedient to God and loving to others. Granted, every situation won’t be perfect, but I commit to being quick to repent, first to apologize, and intentional with making situations right. Before God, I will choose obedience at all times; not just when it’s convenient. Before man, I will choose to be a peacemaker, to fight for unity, and to humbly serve others regardless of my feelings. With my intentional choices and commitment to obedience and God’s love and covering, I can know the peace, the calm, and the confidence of a clear conscience before God and man.
Jesus, I desire to have a clear conscience before You and others. As I renew my commitment to obeying You and being in right relationship with those around me, please help me. Help me to choose obedience over my desires and emotions, enable me to be a peacemaker and die to myself, and please bless me with a pure heart and clear conscience. In Jesus’ name, Amen!