Romans 14: Of Liberty and Scruples

Romans 14: Of Liberty and Scruples

Continuing our theme of the American mind, we now embark on the journey to self-discipline wherein we intentionally restrict ourselves from practices that are permissible but create difficulties in the consciences of others. One thing that must be established at the outset is that we are not talking about matters of sin. These are matters of liberty and conscience.

In days gone by, most Americans were willing to make personal sacrifices and sacrifice personal liberties for the sake of their neighbors or others they didn’t know. Mowing and other noisy activity would be held off until we were sure all the neighbors were awake, and no one would be disturbed. Noisy or crying children would be removed from restaurants or other public places to keep from unnecessarily disturbing others or hindering their enjoyment.

But today such is not the case. Many not only exercise their rights to the disturbance of others, they exercise their liberties for the sole purpose of tormenting others.

Tragically, this attitude has made its way into the church. “I don’t care what they think; what I’m doing isn’t wrong” has become prevalent in the thinking of many. To borrow from James, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be!”

Paul warns both sides that, in matters of liberty and conscience, neither is to think ill of those “on the other side.” Those who believed they had liberty to eat meat (and they did have such liberty) were not to look down on those who were vegetarians, neither were vegetarians to look down on those who ate meat.

This matter continued to the observance of days. Some Jews (or Gentiles) might observe or hold as higher some of their previous holy days, while others (Jew or Gentile) might consider no or all former days alike. To quote Moses Lard, “Both were right, and neither wrong. And so is it, so far as the New Testament is concerned, even now” (Commentary on Romans, p 417).

This being the case, we should permit our fellow Christians the right to observe some days (e.g. Christmas as Jesus’ day of birth) unto themselves without the slightest hint of disapproval or condescension, while at the same time permitting others not to observe it at all. Each one serves the Lord according to the liberty and dictates of his own conscience and scruples.

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