Escape lanes

Escape lanes

Cling to your faith in Christ, and a good conscience. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. – 1 Timothy 1:19

Romans 2:14-15 is

 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,

 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,

The story is told of a group of twentysomethings returning from a weekend retreat that took place on a mountain at a 5500-foot high resort. The driver was not experienced with mountain driving, particularly going downhill. As he drove, he was “riding the brakes.” The brakes overheated and suddenly failed. There was no way to slow down the car and its speed began to pick up. It was only a matter of time until they would hit a curve that the car could not manage and it would fly off the road resulting in serious if not fatal injuries to the passengers.

The highway department was well aware of the dangers of downhill driving. It made provision for this eventuality: escape lanes. Escape lanes enable runaway vehicles with brake problems to stop safely.

They are typically long, sand-filled, or gravel-filled lanes connected to a steep downhill section of a main road. They are designed to accommodate cars, buses, and large trucks. When the vehicle pulls onto an escape lane, its kinetic energy is dissipated gradually in a controlled and virtually harmless way the vehicle stops safely without a violent crash. And so it was with the twentysomethings.

The Father has provided an escape lane for each child of the King. It is called conscience. The human conscience is both a warning device and a way of escape from danger. When our emotions, thoughts, or actions are inappropriate, the conscience issues a warning that something is not right. It is like a red flashing light indicating danger ahead.

The human conscience is not an accessory or an add-on. It is an essential part of the Father’s intelligent design of each child of the King.

Once the conscience warning light goes “off,” we have the choice of changing course or plowing ahead.


“Be the master of your will and the slave of your conscience” (Hasidic Proverb)

Father thank You for providing my conscience. How many times has it saved me from grave danger? Help me to be ever more sensitive to its warnings. Increase my resolve to do the right thing.


The English word conscience comes from the Latin word conscientem. It is formed from comwith” and scire to know. The English word conscience means to know with. Conscience is inner awareness.

The Greek word translated as conscience is syneidesis. Syneidesiscomes from the verb synoida. Which is made up of synwith and oida know. It literally means co-knowledge or to know with. We have within ourselves a perceptive awareness, an inner knowledge of right and wrong.

What is conscience? It is an immaterial aspect of each human being. It judges our actions and thoughts according to our internal standards. It declares them right or wrong, good or bad. It functions as both a prosecutor and judge. “The conscience is that innate faculty in a man’s spirit that attaches itself to the highest that the man knows” (Oswald Chambers).

The conscience is like a referee in a sport like basketball or football. It is constantly on alert for fouls or penalties, that is, violations of the rules of the game. It judges in light of the rules of the game that it has. Human standards change and vary over time and by location. The Father’s standards alone are absolute and never vary or change.

Although it is magnificently designed by the creator, the conscience has a few vulnerabilities: it can be seared, it can be violated, it can be ignored, or it can be improperly programmed with incorrect information.

“Most of us follow our conscience as we follow a wheelbarrow. We push it in front of us in the direction we want to go” (Billy Graham).

The conscience is similar to a thermometer. The thermometer indicates when you have a temperature, but it does not lower it. The conscience does not define standards. It applies internalized standards when making its judgments. The conscience indicates that a discrepancy exists. Using the thermometer analogy, we come into this world with a sense of oughtness, but it is blank. People program their conscience with the values, standards, and norms they acquire early in life. These values become the rules by which conscience is guided. The conscience reacts when internalized standards are violated.

Romans 2:15 Their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.

The conscience is “a reflective mechanism by which people can measure their conformity to a norm” (Moo). It accuses and affirms our thoughts and actions based upon the norms that have been adopted and. It both commends and condemns. It is as though each of us has two different opposing identities inside. They evaluate the same things from different perspectives. One reproves while the other affirms. The conscience both accuses and excuses. This can be expressed, “sometimes their thoughts say, You did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts say, You did right” (UBS).

The story of the Two Wolves is a popular legend often attributed to the Cherokee people. This legend is a story of a grandfather using a metaphor of two wolves fighting within him to explain his inner conflicts to his grandson. When his grandson asks which wolf wins, the grandfather answers the one feed is the one that wins (Wikipedia).

Putting it in other terms, the conscience is an inner voice that says yes or no.  In modern terms, it’s like a toggle switch with only two values, OFF or ON. Assessments are made in light of the standard which is been embraced. Appropriate behavior which is in line with internal convictions is favored and encouraged.

A good conscience is informed by biblical values. Such a conscience can guide each child of the King appropriately. All children the King should have as a goal to develop a mature, godly conscience.


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