The moral compass. Heaven's courtroom. There are many names for our conscience. But what is it for, and how does it work now that everything in this world has been broken by sin?
Your conscience is sort of like an umpire in baseball. It is observing all that is happening in your life, and it calls what it sees. Ball! Strike! When you think sinful thoughts, or speak sinful words, or behave in an ungodly manner, your conscience calls it for what it is. Similarly, when someone else does something to you, your conscience makes sure you know - Strike!
But sometimes the umpire is wrong. Baseball fans loath when this happens, but it happens all too often. The pitch comes in and the umpire says "Strike", but it was WAY outside. The same is true for your conscience. Your conscience can get broken and it can be wrong. This happens when the Evil One and sin have their way with you.
Think of the first time you did something wrong, and how badly you felt about it. Your conscience was working. But the second time, the third, eventually, after repeating the same wrong, you don't feel as bad, and before you know it, you don't feel a thing where you used to feel guilty. Your conscience is broken.
But this is where God wants to interject. He wants to pinch hit. He wants to set Himself up at home plate, and hit every pitch that comes flying in. Whether its your failings - forgiven, guilt removed. Or its the offensive behaviour of your neighbour done against you - forgiven, offense removed. Christ has made things new. He has been "hit by the pitch" so that you don't get struck out. He has been "hit by the pitch" so you don't hold your neighbour's wrong against him. And He has knocked the ball out of the park so that you win, even when you should lose.
Christ has established His Church. He has sent out preachers to speak to your conscience as often as possible. To speak into place this pinch hitter, this Christ, who protects you from guilt and shame. And not just your own guilt and shame, but the wrongdoing of your neighbour. You no longer have to see how your neighbour is wrong - now you can see that Christ has forgiven them too, and He calls you to do the same - to forgive them and to help them. This is why we keep hearing His Word preached, so that our conscience doesn't overwhelm us. So that our overwhelmed conscience doesn't hold anything against our neighbour.
Let's face it, the pitch is too fast for us. We don't know if its a ball or strike, and there is no way we can hit it. But Christ has already accomplished His victory on the cross. The game is already over - and though it is still being played in our conscience - He comes to us in His Word and Sacrament over and over again to show us how it ends. You are forgiven. Freed from guilt and shame and fear. See your pinch hitter. Watch Him crank it, and pray that He is all you see. In Jesus' Name, Amen.