Why is violence becoming such an established part of everyday life? This question is broad since violence occurs within families, in the local community, in our cities, and across the national spectrum. It can be an assault, a riot in a major city, a mass shooting, or road rage. Murder rates in the largest U.S cities are rising. The level and degree of violence is increasing.
Christ stated unequivocally that lawlessness will abound. That statement in context seems to acknowledge a decline in the mental ability of people to exercise control over their impulses and desires. He referenced offenses, betrayals, and hatred, which seemingly contribute to lawlessness.
God’s people today live in this environment. How do we avoid becoming numb to the violence around us? The answer for us lies in our personal conscience. A conscience is a matter of perception. It is a mental mindset providing a moral compass. As such, it is comprised of perceptions that can be changed or influence by external factors. Those influences can be good or bad.
Through Christ, we have access to a transforming power that can – and will, if we use it – develop within us a conscience that aligns with the will of God. We need perceptions that will guide us to make right and good decisions. “… how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14). A cleansed conscience is made possible by Christ’s sacrifice. “… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).
Why the increase in violence? Simply put, the consequence of sin is a mind that will not tolerate any inhibitions to the desires of self. “If you prevent me from getting and doing what I want, I will be violent toward you!”
Sin leads to a defiled conscience. “… but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15).
Our consciences need to be programmed to have godly perception – a moral compass that activates godly thoughts and responses to situations. “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). A good conscience is programmed by God’s Spirit writing God’s will in our hearts.
Repentance and baptism have a central role to play in developing a good conscience. “There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
Our closeness to God is a major factor in the development of a healthy conscience. The resurrection of Christ made the power of God’s Spirit available to us. Coupling the constant programming of our minds with the Word of God and the law of God will help us have a strong godly conscience. “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Violence erupts from a corrupt mind set by sin. We are warned not to let our minds become defiled – which means that they can be. (See Titus 1:15.)
So we need to constantly program our conscience by not letting the lawless, violent society defile us. Our consciences have been purged from dead works. We need to work to preserve that condition. We need a constant and clear perception of God and His will – all the time.