Yesterday, I asked my son and daughter the question: “If the power went out in our town and all of your friends were looting, would you loot too?” Fortunately (big sigh of relief), they both said “No, because it’s wrong”. “Why is it wrong?”, I asked. They both gave a very surprising answer: “because stealing is prohibited by the Ten Commandments.” I was surprised because I expected them to say that their conscience tells them it is wrong. Yet, they are wiser than their father. They realize that conscience, in an of itself, is not a reliable guide. In fact, many people who commit bad acts think they are doing the right thing. They justify stealing by believing they are entitled to someone else’s goods because the owner has exploited others. They justify using performance-enhancing drugs because everyone else is doing it and, if they don’t, they will be disadvantaged. They justify genocide by reasoning that the others are inferior, and they are protecting their own culture.
The reason God gave us the Old Testament laws is because conscience does not always lead to the right decision. In today’s society where people believe everyone has a right to decipher the principles of their internalized God, we become more vulnerable to heinous acts. Should we teach our children to follow their conscience or to follow God’s laws?
Associate Pastor Emeritus, Greg Zehner