This month in Jim Class we are going to look at the phrase, “Don’t Do That,” from two perspectives. There are things that we tell ourselves we don’t want to do, and there are things that others, parents, teachers, coaches, and ultimately, God – tell us not to do. For some reason, those things are hard to talk about, hard to do, and, at times, even hard to consider.
The complication is not a result of the fact that we don’t know what it means, “not to do something.” It is usually within the parameters of not wanting to say or do the hard things. And in some instances, to refrain from doing the things we suspect we shouldn’t.
How does that thing called a conscience work? Why does it work? Why do I even have to be bothered with it at all?
We have heard all the common clichés regarding our consciences. “Let your conscience be your guide.” Or “Never override your conscience.” I would also venture to suggest that we have all, at one time or another, ignored that advice.
“A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.”
When my oldest daughter, Jenna, was six, following a lecture by my wife, Jeanne, about the perils of fingernail clippers. She told her how dangerous they were, how she could hurt herself and that it was very important that mommy or daddy be with her when she used them.
What Jenna heard was, “You can trim your nails unsupervised anytime you want.” Soon after, Jeanne heard the sound of nail clippers in the living room. Jenna was behind the La-Z-Boy. The back of the chair sat parallel to the corner of the wall so that it created a nice little cubby where one could clip her nails.
At the same time we were teaching our girls (we have two, Rachel is the angel) to be safe and to obey their parents, we were also teaching trust and respect. We found that we had to proffer the same to them if we were going to expect it from them.
When my wife asked Jenna if she were clipping her nails, she responded with a very cheerful and polite, “No, Mommy.” And at that instant the clipping sound ceased, and Jenna left the confines of her hiding place.
My wife chose to show trust and respect. Since Jenna had stopped clipping her nails and came out from behind the chair, there was no immediate danger. She took her at her word. Nothing else was said.
Two weeks later Jenna came to Jeanne and said, “Mommy, do you remember when you asked me if I was clipping my nails?” And Jeanne said, “Yes.” With a tear in her eye and a contrite heart Jenna replied, “Well, I was.” She said she was sorry, Jeanne gave her a hug, told her she was forgiven, and all was right with the world.
Two interesting things came of that incident. Jenna never used the nail clippers without permission again, and I saw the human conscience at work in a six year old.
As a minister I am fascinated with the human condition. How it relates to our interaction with others, and how it relates to our interaction with God. From a theological perspective the conscience and the human spirit are one. It is the voice of God speaking to us. That idea can lead to many blog topics, but that is the perspective from which I am bringing Jim Class to you this month.
II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (NKJV)
The spirit, the conscience, the internal compass of mankind, becomes new, or remade when we make a decision to follow Christ. I realize that the verse says, “all” things, but in the grand scheme of life, our spirit is “all” in the spiritual realm (that is a teaching for another day).
In the story I shared about my daughter, she demonstrated both aspects which I alluded to in my opening. She didn’t want to do what she was told, but there was a conflict within her to do the right thing, and what she was being prompted to do, come clean with mom and dad.
The best Biblical example to demonstrate this dilemma, is the story of the woman caught in adultery in the Gospel of John.
Jesus had gathered a group to begin teaching in the temple when He was interrupted by the Pharisees who had evidently caught a woman “in the very act” (John 8:4) of adultery.
The most befuddling aspect of this story is that there was no man caught. The ruling council’s crack team of investigators couldn’t catch the man. It does seem that if she were caught “in the very act,” she wouldn’t have been alone. A second party is never even mentioned.
The Pharisees present Jesus with a case they can’t lose. They’re going to catch Him in some contrary action so they can make an arrest. But He doesn’t respond properly, “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.” (John 8:6, NKJV)
The experts in the law were wanting to know what Jesus would do in a situation that calls for expert knowledge. They had questioned his education just a few verses earlier, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” (John 7:15, NKJV). Jesus stooping down and writing in the sand must have been considered a slap in the face. I can’t imagine the members of the council letting someone get away with that. Why did they?
An even better question is, “What was Jesus writing?” Much speculation has been made on that topic. And without much substance.
Some say He was writing a secret Christian symbol. The most common icon mentioned is the Ichthus, or the Christian fish (which we see on bumper stickers). There isn’t much supporting evidence for that symbol being used while Jesus was on earth.
Others have said that he was simply doodling to upset the ruling council. They didn’t need help! They were already planning on killing Him and had sent officers to take Him prior to this. Then what was He writing? The best explanation I have, comes from scripture.
Jeremiah 17:11 “As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, So is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, And at his end he will be a fool.” 12 A glorious high throne from the beginning Is the place of our sanctuary. 13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed. “Those who depart from Me Shall be written in the earth,
Because they have forsaken the Lord, The fountain of living waters.” (NKJV)
This is a prophetic reference toward those who will be in positions of power in the future with impure motives (Pharisees and Sadducees maybe?). They will reject (forsake) the true leader who is the “fountain of living water.” Which is Jesus.
He had just preached about access to this living water in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the scripture (Psalm 36:8-9, Isaiah 44:3-4, Jeremiah 17:11, Joel 2:23) has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
Before and after He preached these words, there were plots to arrest Him and kill Him. That’s rejection. Those that rejected Him in chapter seven are back in chapter eight.
What He may have been writing in the dust were the names of His accusers. Jeremiah 17: 13 …All who forsake You shall be ashamed. “Those who depart from Me Shall be written in the earth, Because they have forsaken the Lord, The fountain of living waters.” (NKJV)
The Pharisees were desperately trying to keep their positions of power, John 11:48 “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Forget about the veracity of scripture or finding the Messiah, they wanted their authority.
What happened in the midst of this self-righteous posturing? Jesus ignored them and wrote on the ground. If it were their names, what happened next makes a lot of sense.
John 8:9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. (NKJV)
The conscience must be a powerful persuader. Their intent was to arrest and kill Jesus. But instead, they hung their heads and walked away, the oldest first.
At this point they had the sense of a six-year old. In the long run the Pharisees did put Jesus to death, and Jenna, my six-year old daughter, never again used the nail clippers without permission.
The moral of the story – be like Jenna!