Day 127: A Question of Conscience

Romans 14:22-23

Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who doesn’t judge himself in that which he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because it isn’t of faith; and whatever is not of faith is sin.

I don’t think that this version of the Bible brings out the intent of the passage as well as some others. I don’t think I fully understood this verse until I looked at it using the word “conviction” instead of “faith.” I like how it is put in the New Living Translation:

Romans 14:22-23 (New Living Translation – NLT)

You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

I personally experienced a breakthrough when I considered this passage recently. I realized that, although something may not be wrong before God, if I believe it to possibly be wrong, I shouldn’t do it. I believe that this is the basis for what Paul has been saying in this chapter. The world tries to encourage people to ignore their conscience or to put it down as a kind of evil. Christianity holds conscience high and says that even if it isn’t really wrong, obey your
conscience anyway.

We can actually invent new ways of sinning by taking a good thing, believe it to be wrong, and then do it anyway. That really is sin according to what we read here. This is why we absolutely must support weak believers who think that something is wrong that the Bible doesn’t say is wrong. If they think it is wrong, then to them it is! We destroy God’s work in the conscience of the new believer if we encourage them to disobey their conscience.

In my life, I have found two ways in which I have caused damage to my conscience. One way is to believe something is wrong and then attempt to do it anyway because someone else said I shouldn’t worry about it. The other is to fail to do something that I believe is right to do when others don’t think it is necessary. They may be right; it may not be a real rule in the Bible, but for them to not support me in the following of my conscience is to help cause me harm. This discovery helped me understand these verses:

Acts 24:16

Herein I also practice always having a conscience void of offense toward God and men.

1 Timothy 1:19

holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust away made a shipwreck concerning the faith;

It is my responsibility to follow my conscience, even if others don’t care.