Sometimes we shout the loudest to silence our guilty conscience. The voice of our own conscience speaks to us. We are unsure about our rightness. We have no place to turn to settle this internal conflict, so we shout.
Group shouting is even better, so we think. There is strength, and peace, in numbers. If we can get others to shout with us, the better our chances of convincing ourselves that we are right, or at least not wrong. We hope our solidarity with other shouters will have a soothing effect on our souls.
While watching film from 1957 as black students attempted to attend school in Little Rock with white students, I wondered if some in the protesting mob were as sure of themselves as they appeared. An up-close shot of a shouting young white woman arrested my attention. Was she sure that she was right? Or, was her shouting along with the crowd an effort to comfort herself and quiet the voice of her conscience?
People do this. We are afraid of something, we react in fear but are unsure we are right. We don’t know where to turn with our fear and our sense of being wrong. So, we join a shouting crowd to quiet the internal voice and convince ourselves that we are right. We think we can shout our conscience into submission.
I watched this week what I believe to be another attempt to shout-down the voice of a troubled conscience. The state of New York passed new abortion legislation not to restrict it but to permit it up to the very point of delivery. People cheered. Was their cheering an attempt to convince themselves of the rightness of this law?
I listened to a woman from the “Shout Your Abortion” movement describe, celebrate, and attempt to normalize her abortion. Then she invited others to “shout” their abortion, meaning join her in celebrating their freedom and decision to end the life of a human. I wondered if she really thinks that she is right, or if she is using the solidarity shout to convince herself that she is.
There is so much inner turmoil over participating in abortion that many people have linked arms with each other to “shout” themselves into assurance that they are ok. They are troubled and a conflict rages within. They don’t know where else to turn to ease their troubled souls. So, they shout in solidarity and hope to find some peace.
But no one finds true peace there. The laws of nature are written on the human heart. When we violate these laws, our conscience is troubled and we either accuse or excuse ourselves. We have an unsettled and unsure conscience. In moments of quietness we sense that God will judge our inner secrets (Romans 2:15-16). This is unbearable. No amount of shouting our innocence, our rightness, and our normalcy will quiet the voice within.
Peace for our guilty conscience is not in shouting it into submission so it will stop accusing us. A conscience can be seared so that its witness against us is muted. But that doesn’t make it clean and alive to God. Our hope is in having our conscience cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ and knowing that we are actually forgiven of our wrong and our sin. For that, Jesus died.
The blood of Jesus will purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 2:14). In Christ, a person can actually draw near to God with a conscience made clean through forgiveness (Heb. 10:22). We can appeal to God for a good conscience through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).
Jesus took the punishment for the sins of abortion, racism, murder (see the Apostle Paul’s story in Acts 9), sexual immorality, lying, cheating, stealing, jealousy, and every other evil that comes from within us. If we repent and trust him with our lives then he will forgive all of our sins. With the knowledge that we are forgiven, we will not fear turning to God and admitting that we are wrong. We will feel no need to cover our shame with shouts or to bear our shame with self-condemnation. This is our peace.
When you hear your own voice shouting in an attempt to subdue your guilty conscience and prove your righteousness, turn to Christ and kneel at the foot of his cross, and embrace forgiveness. He will make you clean and will quiet the accusing voice within.
When you see others shouting in celebration over their sin, remember that they may not be as sure of themselves as they appear. Underneath the noise may be a troubled soul who doesn’t know where else to turn for peace. From a heart of love, pray for God to once again turn a person bent on destruction to the path of forgiveness, freedom, and life. He has done it before.