If we have wronged another, we must humble ourselves and do whatever is required to gain a clear conscience with God and that person.
Reconciliation sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to experience the thrill of having a long-lost friend restored, or of turning an enemy into an ally?
But these things do not just happen. At least one party must take the pathway of humility and accept personal responsibility for any wrong attitudes or actions.
Reconciliation requires that we take whatever steps are necessary to obtain a clear conscience toward those we have offended or wronged in any way. Jesus emphasized this process in His Sermon on the Mount:
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).
Why is reconciliation with others more important to God than whatever gifts we may offer to Him? How are our relationships with God and others interconnected?
If we recall that another believer has something against us, Jesus said we must stop what we’re doing and deal with it immediately—even if we’re in the middle of a worship service! We are not to proceed any further in our effort to worship, serve, or give an offering to Him. We must first go and be reconciled to that offended brother. Until we do, all attempted spiritual activity will be meaningless.
So how do you go about getting a clear conscience? Here are some practical guidelines to help you get started. We’ll look at just the first two steps here, and cover several others later.
1. Make a list.
Set aside some quality time when you can be alone and uninterrupted. Begin with prayer. Purpose to agree with God about whatever He shows you. Then ask Him to search your heart and remind you of each person you have wronged or with whom you have an unresolved conﬂict.
Make a list of each person God brings to mind. As you write each name, also write down how you have sinned against that person. Be as specific as possible about the ways you have wronged that individual.
Here are some questions to jump-start your thinking. They are not intended to be comprehensive—God may point out other areas or categories of people with whom you need to clear your conscience. Some of the issues God brings to mind may be in your past—others may be current. Whether your offense took place fifty years ago or fifty minutes ago, if you have not dealt with it, put it on the list.
Use the following questions to help you determine:
With whom do I need to clear my conscience? Who have I sinned against and never gone back to seek their forgiveness and make it right?
Is your conscience clear with your family?
- Have you broken any promises to your family? Have you broken your marriage vows?
- Are you deceiving your family in any way?
- Are you slothful or negligent in your duties at home?
- Do you have any habits that irritate or frustrate your family?
- Are you angry, resentful, or abusive toward any family member?
- Have you wounded the spirit of your mate?
- Have you withheld love from your mate or any of your children?
- Have you dishonored your parents or your mate’s parents?
- Have your failed to provide for your family, or to give yourself to your mate sexually?
If your first thought when you think of someone is anger, resentment, dread, or fear, chances are that person needs to be added to your list!
Is your conscience clear with your church family?
- Have you been guilty of gossip, slander, or a critical spirit toward your pastor or any of the leaders of your church?
- Has God placed any area of service on your heart that you have been unwilling to perform?
- Do you have critical thoughts and attitudes toward anyone in your church? Have you verbalized those thoughts to others?
- Do you portray a “better-than-thou” attitude to your church family?
- Have you failed to give some of your income back to the Lord?
- Have you failed to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism?
- Have you abused your role of leadership in the church in any way?
- Have you been a hypocrite—serving in the church, leaving an impression of being spiritual, while covering up disobedience or lack of a heart for God?
Is your conscience clear with the lost world?
- Have you stirred up or contributed to any disputes in your neighborhood or community?
- Have you stolen from any place of business (e.g. shoplifting, didn’t call attention to being undercharged)?
- Do you obey trafﬁc laws, building codes, and other local ordinances?
- Is your name well spoken of by your neighbors and the vendors with whom you conduct business?
- Would the people in your community conclude that you are a Christian by observing your lifestyle?
- Have you cheated on your income taxes? On exams or papers at school?
Is your conscience clear in your workplace?
- Have you spoken disrespectfully to or about your supervisors?
- Do you have any unresolved disputes with fellow workers?
- When you do have a disagreement at work, do you seek to resolve it quickly and biblically, or do you display anger and bring others in on it needlessly?
- Do you work faithfully and diligently? Are you always honest about why you are taking time off?
- Do you abuse company policies?
- Have you stolen any items or money from your employer or cheated on expense reports?
Is your conscience clear from your past?
- Do you have any unresolved conﬂicts with family members? church members, leaders, staff? neighbors? supervisors, fellow workers? classmates, teachers, professors?
- Have you committed any crime that you have never confessed to the proper authorities?
- Have you lied to anyone about anything in an attempt to avoid consequences for some wrong you have done?
Is there anything else of which God is convicting you that needs to be made right? Any sin—past or present—that you have never cleared up with the person affected by it? Any person you couldn’t look in the eye with a clear conscience? Add each person and offense God brings to mind to the list of those you need to clear your conscience with.
2. Seek God’s forgiveness.
Every sin against another person is first a sin against God (2 Samuel 12:13). Pray through the list you have made and seek God’s forgiveness for how you have sinned against Him by wronging others.
Once you have made your list and sought God’s forgiveness, you are ready to begin clearing your conscience with the individuals on your list.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the length of your list, remember that God will never ask you to do anything that He will not give you the grace—the desire and power—to do. And remember that God gives grace to the humble. As you humble yourself and begin to clear your conscience, He will walk each step of the way with you, however hard the process may be and however long it may take.
Excerpt from Seeking Him, © 2004 by Life Action Ministries, written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom with Life Action Ministries, published by Moody Publishers in Chicago, IL. Used by permission.