Conscience – an inalienable right
We all have a God-given capacity to know and do what’s right – even when it means changing course and redeeming wrongs.
When we hear of horrific occurrences, whether on the global stage or in our own backyard, we may find ourselves wondering if the perpetrators have a conscience.
In fact, they do – everyone does. That’s not to say it’s always being put into practice. But one’s ability to know and do what is right is part of our innate nature as children of God, who is all good. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason, and conscience” (p. 106).
This offers a basis for hope and redemption where needed. We see this illustrated in both biblical and contemporary times.
In the early days of the first century, Saul of Tarsus was a devout man who felt Judaism, as he understood it, was threatened by Christ Jesus’ teachings, so he set out to destroy those ideas – and anyone who held to them. Yet Saul could not escape a sense of conscience. While traveling to a major city where he intended to wreak havoc, a vision of the Christ appeared and spoke to him. In a matter of days Saul was completely transformed and he spent the rest of his life advancing Christly ideals of peace and healing (see Acts 8, 9).
Central messages of the Bible include God’s love for man (meaning all of us), God’s continuous presence, and God’s supremacy. In other words, God’s nature is one of power and grace. Therefore man, as God’s spiritual offspring, must have a correlated nature – one of wisdom, mercy, goodness, and peace.
Sometimes, though, a mistaken mind-set of anger, ego, hate, or fear would cloud one’s natural tendencies toward good. But the Christ, “a divine influence ever present in human consciousness and repeating itself, coming now as was promised aforetime” (Science and Health, p. xi), is more powerful than such mind-sets. The Christ message of our likeness to God, of our spiritual nature and natural desire to be and do good, speaks to man continually.
As we allow the Christ-spirit to be forefront in our thoughts, motives, and actions, we are amplifying the Christ, playing our part in helping Christ to be more rooted and apparent in world consciousness. We are better equipped to express our God-given justice, integrity, and decency – to let divine Love and Christ make their abode with us (see John 14:23).
Our “abode” is where we are at home, settled in, and established. And if our mental abode is welcoming of the Christ, of all the good that God is communicating and providing, we are better protected from false influences that might try to throw us off track – better able to think and act with conscience.
A friend of mine shared an experience that illustrates our inherent, unassailable right of conscience. He was once part of a project that involved turning in a mileage log each week for fuel reimbursement. Money was tight for him, and he was tempted to lie on the form. One week he intentionally put down an incorrect number and received a payment that was more than he was owed.
My friend said he wrestled with that wrong decision. His conscience told him it was dishonest and immoral; he knew this was not following his highest sense of good. In humble prayer, my friend reasoned that God, good, does not deprive us of anything that we need. He affirmed that only thoughts and intents that come from the divine Mind, God, divine Truth, can have legitimate influence. Our sense of right and wrong, our conscience, is upheld by the activity of the Christ, here to guide our every thought and action.
As he continued to pray along these lines, my friend felt a desire to correct this misstep. Not only did he do so, but he was never again tempted to misrepresent his mileage.
We can all strive to exercise our inalienable rights of “self-government, reason, and conscience,” to acknowledge that our brothers and sisters have the same rights, and to prayerfully affirm that no errant mortal thought has validity to keep us from exercising these rights. As Science and Health puts it, “Let us learn of the real and eternal, and prepare for the reign of Spirit, the kingdom of heaven, – the reign and rule of universal harmony, which cannot be lost nor remain forever unseen” (p. 208).