Briefing: Think back to your academy training. Remember having to learn the “culpable mental states” for each crime? Knowing if a person “intently or knowingly” committed a crime is very important.
Dispatch (Assignment): Read Romans 14:22-23.
On the Street: Wow! This is a big one. Paul addresses a deep spiritual maturity in this paragraph. The pattern of building on and growing our faith is very evident here. This passage will focus on our conscience and the intent of our heart.
Conscience is defined as the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong. Sometimes we say it is our compass that points to truth. When you are off course, you know it because your conscience tells you. In the middle of verse 22 Paul writes, “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” If we apply our understanding of conscience we could say “blessed is the man whose mind makes him aware that his actions are morally right”. In other words, blessed is the man whose conscience is clear.
Contrast that to the second man in this paragraph. Paul writes in verse 23, “But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith”. This person’s conscience tells him that eating sacrificed meat is morally wrong. Paul addresses eating because some foods you would buy in the market place were animals that had been sacrificed to idols. Eating meat sacrificed to idols implied you were worshiping that idol. To put it in modern day terms, an example would be going out with friends who are drinking alcohol. You know they plan on driving home afterwards and your conscience tells you this is wrong. If you ignore your conscience and participate, this is sin.
The intent of our heart is something only God knows. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Only He truly knows if we acted with intent and knew what we were doing. The human mind can make educated guesses but we cannot know what is in another person’s heart.
Your freedom has limits. Freedom is not free to do whatever you want. There is discipline in freedom which requires a person to be responsible and to follow their conscience.
Romans 14:22-23 says, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Investigational Resources: 1 John 3:21-22 and all of Romans chapter 14. Read the whole chapter in context.
Officer Safety Principle: Follow your conscience because God knows where it is leading you. Your decision to follow, or not follow, your conscience becomes your intent. God sees what is in your heart.
from The Book of Romans Through the Eyes of a Cop
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
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