Dr. Paul Brand, who served as a medical missionary in India, told about lepers who had terrible deformities because their nerve endings could not feel pain. It didn’t hurt when they stepped in a fire or cut their finger with a knife, so they left their wounds untended. This led to infection and deformity.

Dr. Brand constructed a machine that would beep when it came in contact with fire or sharp objects. It signaled the warnings of injury in the absence of pain. Soon machines were attached to the patients’ fingers and feet. That worked well until they wanted to play basketball. They took the machines off, and often became injured again without knowing it.

Like physical pain to our bodies, our conscience alerts us to spiritual harm. But habitual and unrepentant sin can numb the conscience (1 Tim. 4:1-3). To keep a clear conscience, we need to respond to the pain of appropriate guilt by confession (1 John 1:9), repentance (Acts 26:20), and restitution to others (Luke 19:8). Paul could say with confidence, “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16). Like him, we should not grow numb to God’s painful reminder of sin but allow it to produce in us godly character.