1 Peter 3:16 says “Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath,” as translated in Eugene Petersons’, The Message. So, what does that really mean and how do we apply to our lives.
Obviously, the plain reading of the text is quite clear; we should not act in a way that causes us to feel guilty, about anything. If we can achieve this level of guilt-free living then if we are wrongly accused, it will be obvious, because of our previous guilt-free actions, that we are being wrongly accused; however, if someone does accurately bring to your attention something that you are doing, that they perceive to be wrong, you will feel no shame in it because you have a clear conscience about every action you have taken.
Perhaps there is no better real-life application of this verse than the political arena. Although many candidates pledge say they want to run a positive campaign, some would argue that this effort is mostly out of self-preservation. Candidates do not want their dirty-laundry aired in public, or maybe they know that in the past their personal actions, voting records related to certain issues, or their stance on important subjects may not be exactly what they want all the voters to know.
It seems that almost every candidate, no matter how vehemently they oppose negative ads in the beginning of the campaign, goes negative before the end of the campaign. This happens for several reasons. First, one’s opponent is ahead in the polls and something is needed to close the gap. Second, one is previously attached by another candidate in the media, maybe with misleading of half-truth statements and so the one being attacked feels the need to defend themselves. Third, a candidate is perceived to be talking the talk, but not walking the walk, and fourth, despite polls to the contrary in reality, negative ads work because as humans and voters, we are much more likely to believe something bad about someone than we are to believe something good.
If politicians would only take to heart the advice, even the command, to keep a clear conscience before God their opponents would have a lot less mud to through at them when election time rolled around.
So, how do you measure up? If you were to enter a political race today and your thoughts, as well as your actions could be used in a negative campaign against you, which would the public believe? Would those who know you best summarily dismiss these attacks and defend you to others because you have consistently proven yourself to above reproach on the matter, or would they have to give it some thought before determining your specific guilt or innocence. If they have to stop and think, we have lost the battle.
Let’s take this one step furtherer, if you look back at your life, say over the last 10 years, are there things in your life that Satan could use against you in a campaign to keep you out of Heaven? How effective would that be? Is your conscience clear? Have you ask for forgiveness? Is it your intent to change the behaviors of the past so that any such campaign would be less effective today than it was 10 years ago? Obviously, we would all lose that campaign if it were not for the grace and mercy of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 3:16 is calling us to make and live out the change necessary to make such a campaign against us ineffective. We can start today, living life in a way that will free us from guilt, guilt from our actions, and our response to others. If people watch our lives will our actions and responses point them to Christ?
The only way for us to properly respond, with a clear conscience, to the challenges of life and the challenges other people may bring against us is to be faithfully living out the Three Basic Principles discussed in an earlier posting. First, we must be diligently praying on a daily basis. This simply means talking to God, being thankful for his blessings sharing our thoughts, asking for forgiveness, voicing our concerns and disappointments, and seeking His guidance. Second, we must be reading, studying, and exploring the Bible. This is the way God talks to us. The Bible is God’s word, provided to us so that we might better understand how we are to live the life to which He has called us. The more we read, understand and know about the Bible, the better we are able to hear, know and understand the still small voice that God most often uses to direct us in our daily lives. Third, we must be living life amongst a strong group of followers, who are seeking to live their life according to God’s word and desire.
We are not called to be perfect. We will never be perfect, but that should not let that deter us meeting the challenge of keeping a clear conscience before God.