“A Big Relief!” – On Conscience

A reflection by Rev. Renee Machiniack

“When we know what is true from our faith, understand it in our own way, and then want it to happen and act on it ourselves, we build up a conscience.”

-Emanuel Swedenborg, New Jerusalem §131

Everything changes when our faith becomes real, doesn’t it? When we finally “get it” that God is real? All of life changes, we are never the same. And once we have real, living perceptions of higher and deeper things in life, and we call this “true faith”, then a real conscience is built up in us over time. Interesting, isn’t it? Our conscience is “built up” over time…

Now, faith is not a creed. It is not a specific religion. It is not a specific theology or belief system. Faith is not “going to church every Sunday”. Faith is both courageously choosing to believe in God even when life is really tough, AND faith is having a real, living perception of higher and deeper things – which is a quantum leap from being just “inspired”. Once living faith comes, it is with you 24/7, although faith can and will be tested. 

My focus in this reflection is on conscience, how it gets built up, what it is, and how it functions in our life in real ways. 

Real conscience can stop a nasty argument, from the inside out! Real conscience gets us out of ourselves and into the larger, deeper issues. The spirit of truth, the Advocate, shifts us, helps us, to love. 

Let’s take a moment and look at what conscience is, and is not…

Is Conscience a guilty finger pointing in your face? 

Is conscience someone preaching at you moralistically?

Is conscience a “big voice inside” saying you’re a “bad person”?

I have news for you: all of these are from hell. They are not of conscience, they are not of God. Now that’s a big relief. God is not about pointing a finger, shame, etc. 

Real conscience is simply caring for the good and the true in all situations. In other words, it is not being concerned about your welfare only, or the other person’s welfare only. It’s about caring for the specific kind of good and truth that’s in any situation. 

For example: Think of police using too much force. Someone might focus too much on the fact that police simply shouldn’t use too much force and leave it at that… This is as far as they go in their thinking. But a person of living faith or perception will take it deeper and see the more important and deeper truth that black and brown people need to be cared for just as much as everybody else. 

Another example: Two people are having an argument and by the fact that they are arguing, they are not going deep enough with specifics in conversation, which means they are not caring about what’s good and true for the other person, what the other person cares about, what it is that’s actually hurting them. When they are arguing, they are caring about themselves… If they did care about the good and true, which is conscience, the conversation would take a very different course, i.e. focussing on what’s important and what cane be done to heal the situation (being heard, affirmed, supported, etc.)

Conscience can also be the little voice knocking at your mind’s door saying “pay attention to the deeper issue or reality that needs to be addressed.” How many times have we said “I should have paid attention to that inner voice!”…

Real conscience is the presence of God with us, telling us what is good and what is true in any given moment. It is the Advocate with us. It’s a God-light in the mind. At the center of conscience is always the Lord saying: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

We need to value REAL conscience more, especially in today’s world. And we should never, ever, identify God with guilt and shame, only with love and mercy.

Swedenborg is very positive about this. He really helps us here, this is a big relief.

*Swedenborg, Emanuel. New Jerusalem. Translated by George F. Dole. West Chester: Swedenborg Foundation, 2016.

Rev. Renee Machiniak has been the minister of the Royal Oak Church of the Holy City for the past 25 years, serving as a staff chaplain for both Beaumont Hospice and Oncology for 9 years and now a volunteer chaplain with Beaumont’s Ovarian Cancer Support Group and the Royal Oak Police Department. She resides in Royal Oak Michigan with her husband, Joe, her parents, Rev. John and Sharon Billings, and dog Gertie.

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