We’re looking at I Timothy 1:5 for instruction on being able to love well: “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” I defined “loving well” as being able to love with pure motives for the good of the other person. We looked at the “pure heart” for that. Now, let’s look at another element of loving well: “a good conscience.”
I was surprised to remember an incident in the Bible where the guilt of an “non-good” (sorry) conscience messed up the disciples’ ability to listen to Jesus and thus love and serve Him well. Here’s what happened:
And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12).
Did you notice what happened? The disciples were feeling guilty because they neglected one of their responsibilities. Their guilt clouded their ability to listen and really hear what Jesus was saying to them. They assumed His intent was tracking on what they were consumed with thinking about. As a result, their trust was blocked and they were selfishly focused on themselves and their own concerns.
I think this can happen a lot in subtle ways.
- A wife feels bad for being irritated with her husband before he leaves for work. She thinks about it all day and when he comes home, she interprets his silence as anger, when he’s just preoccupied with thoughts of work. As a result, she doesn’t ask him about his day.
- A mom feels guilty because she over-reacted toward her misbehaving toddler in the grocery store. When she comes across her friend at the store, she can’t recognize her friend’s sadness because she’s ashamed of her behavior. She misses an opportunity to minister to her friend.
I know there are so many other examples. Our guilt clouds our ability to focus on the needs of others and “be there” for them. We can’t love them “well.”
And the solution is so easy and simple: confess and be cleansed! Confess it to God and ask for His forgiveness. Talk about it with the other person and see if there is a problem. Don’t assume. Receive the cleansing that will restore a good conscience and then we can focus on the needs of the other person and love them well. Our clouded focus from our guilt will be removed.
It’s that simple! Not easy, but it is simple. But because of the cross, it can be done!
Is any guilt clouding your ability to love well? To focus on the needs of the other person and forget about yourself? If so, turn to the Lord for forgiveness and cleansing. It can be yours right now.
Next post, we’ll focus on the third part of loving well: a sincere faith.