“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.” – Romans 14:1-3
Scruples are defined as, “an ethical consideration or principle that inhibits action.” These are actions that are morally neutral or unspecified in the scriptures but made important by personal conviction or cultural significance.
In the Church, this is especially evident and decisive. In the early church, it was no different. The early church struggled with what seems to be four major issues: vegetarianism, alcohol consumption, the Sabbath (and whether it is necessary post-Resurrection), and circumcision. We still bicker about some of these issues today and some have long since fizzled out. Mostly, in an ever complicating world, we have new issues.
These disagreements are as diverse as the people who have them but two of the major ones in our American church culture seem to be the consumption of alcohol and church “dress codes.”
1. Alcohol – This verse exists: “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” – Romans 14:21. This verse also exists: “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” – Ecclesiastes 9:7. These represent the two sides of this debate. What does the largest part of the Bible say? Do not be a drunkard. Beyond that obvious point, whether you choose to consume alcohol or not is a personal preference, a scruple. Don’t push or pressure, but also do not judge and condemn. In my eyes, it is that simple.
2. Modesty – “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. So what does this mean explicitly? No man can say. However, nothing we do as women should be to glorify or shelter another person, but God alone. I believe, based on scripture, we should not dress with the intent to impress men or women but to honor our Creator. To do otherwise is not the will of God. On the other hand, I do not believe women should be held responsible for the sin of man. Nor should lusting, and thus altrultrous behavior, be the responsibility of anyone but the person committing the sin. Women must control the urge to display our bodies as objects for visual pleasure. Men must control wandering eyes and never blame their own sin on “instincts” or other people.
This is the bottom lin. We musn’t shun the conservative side as old-fashioned and stiff-necked. We also mustn’t whisper about the liberal side as a “stumbling block” and shallow.
In conclusion, those with a heightened sensitivity of the conscience should value it as a trait of the Holy Spirit molding them. Those who are more rounded and have an accepting outlook should, according to Paul, see it as evidence of mature faith. Both are valuable.
Scruples should never be used as the measuring tape for believers’ spirituality, and believers who disagree should be in community. Healthy debate is a gorgeous thing, but it shouldn’t be used to break apart the Church and harden hearts. We are the Body. Let the small disagreements stay small.
First and last. Love.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
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"I am the Vine, you are the Branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."