"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." - 1 Corinthians 4:4
Whenever someone tells me, "My conscience is clear," I doubt it. You see, people with a clear conscience don't usually feel the need to declare it.
When people say, "My conscience is clear," I think what they are really saying is "Do you think my conscience should be clear? Let me run this by you. And then you can expect me to argue with you if you say it isn't. But still, I wonder and so I put the idea out there."
The apostle Paul understood this about himself. He knew that just because he felt like a good guy, he wasn't necessarily. Just because he believed his conscience was clear, it didn't make it so. We human beings see our lives through our own point of view. Viewed from someone else's angle, we may not look quite as blameless.
In the end, God judges all of us: the innocent, the guilty, and those who have themselves in entirely the wrong category. I guess that's why we need a prayer of confession. So that at the end of a week where we have declared ourselves to have a clear conscience, we might confess: "…but I could be wrong about that."
I confess that I have fallen short in thought, word, and deed. And some of that might have happened while I was complimenting myself. Remarkably, your forgiveness covers stuff like that. Amen.
Lillian Daniel, author of When "Spiritual But Not Religious" is Not Enough, has a chapter in the upcoming anthology, What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most. Follow her on twitter @lillianfdaniel.