Imagine with me that you were able to rent the biggest arena in your city. Perhaps it’s a concert hall that seats 5,000, a football stadium that seats 50,000, or even a racetrack that seats 100,000!
You sign the rental agreement and start sending out invitations. There aren’t going to be any rock stars, celebrities, or prizes on the agenda. Just a short speech, by you.
People start arriving—from everywhere! From work, from your neighborhood. From your second grade class, from your first job. From your hometown. From your college dorm. From the stores you frequented, the churches you attended, the teams you played on, and the clubs you joined. The person who sat next to you on the bus ten years ago and the waitress who refilled your coffee at breakfast last week.
Every person you’ve ever encountered.
You watch the masses filling the seats—thousands upon thousands, seating themselves in curious quiet. The bright lights on the upper deck beat down on you as you near the microphone, which stands alone in center field. Your mind races to recalculate one last time: Should I really do what I’m about to do?
Shaking off doubts, you lean in and speak: “Thank you for coming. I recently learned what it means to have a clear conscience, and about what it means to make things right. I really believe God wants me to make peace wherever I can, to pay back anything I’ve stolen, to seek forgiveness for any hurt I may have caused.
“That’s why I’ve asked you to come . . . to think about my relationship with you, the business I’ve conducted, the words I’ve spoken, the things I’ve done, the attitudes I’ve displayed. And I’d like to ask: If any of you has something against me, or if you know of some wrong I’ve committed that I’ve never attempted to make right, would you come down to the field right now so we can clear that up?”
Stunned silence. You wait patiently, then notice a bit of movement off to the side. Then, a bit more.
How many people do you think would move? Would it be a handful, or perhaps a few hundred? Or would that moment look like the invitation at an old-fashioned Billy Graham Crusade, with thousands of people streaming down front from every which way?
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church:
We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12).
I can report from personal experience that the freedom of a clear conscience is well worth the effort involved in securing it. I’ve had to pay back forgotten debts, seek forgiveness for harsh words, and even repay something I stole back in fourth grade, decades after the fact!
Is that your story as well? Peter wrote that “if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
You see, when your conscience is clear, you can step in front of that crowd for a different purpose. With no secrets to hide. With no skeletons in the closet. In the stadium of people surrounding your life, you can share the gospel without fear, and without holding back.
Dan Jarvis is the managing editor for Revive magazine, where this column appeared in Vol. 48, #1.