Conscience Issues


My husband is from a very conservative family. They find things to be very wrong that I was not brought up to be concerned about. Examples: women don't wear necklaces, you don't discuss business on Sunday, females absolutely do not wear pants for any reason, etc. To some extent I am OK with beliefs like these, as they are probably supported in the Bible, but I don't feel as strongly as he does; it's like his family bases conversion on these ideas. (Although I know they don't.) And, almost every other family must think differently--guys are always coming up to him with a "business" question on Sunday that they need a quick answer on.  In other words, I don't like women wearing pants either, but I don't have a fit because someone wears them to a car wash, or when they're working in a garden, etc. And I think necklaces are OK if they aren't your source of pride. etc... I also realize that if we are brought up to think something is wrong, it is wrong for us even though it might not be for another. The questions I have are these:

(1) How do you, yourself, as a minister, explain in your mind the differences between people's convictions: how one person who goes to the Lord's Supper has no problem doing something, but another one who goes thinks it's absolutely wrong to do that same thing?

(2) In the Bible there are those with "weak faith"--who are afraid to do things that God might punish them for--and those with "strong faith"--who are not held back by "do's and don'ts". In our NRC church, of course, we are brought up to think differently! The more do's and don'ts you have, the stronger and better you are! (or so we seem to think) Please explain this more.

(3) When do we know if something is REALLY TRULY against the Bible? Those who are against pants, necklaces, hair cuts, etc., can find a verse for anything they want. They will say, See--the Bible PROVES it is wrong to do such-and-such. But--When do we really know it IS wrong?

(4) How do I know what is my conscience and what is just a "guilty" feeling? For example, suppose in my mind I was never brought up to think playing CDs of Psalter music on Sunday was wrong. But my husband isn't comfortable with  it. So, now suppose I am home alone and put such a CD on. To me it is OK, but I am feeling guilty because I feel I am not supposed to do it...and if I know it's time for him to come home, I quickly turn the CD player off so he doesn't catch me. You can develop a "conscience" without really being "God's voice." How do we know what is REALLY GOD's voice?

I know this is long, but thanks for any response, Linda.


Hi Linda,

Thanks for your patience.  I was overseas for a few weeks and so everything is catching up.  You have brought up a host of issues which in someway all boil down to one issue:  How do I know what is right or wrong in things that aren't black of white in Scripture?   It is clear that we don't have to discuss what God's will is in issues that He clearly spelled out in His Scriptures, such as the ten commandments.  Yet there are endless areas of every day life where we need make applications to how we are to live.  You mentioned many little details in which we can differ, such as listening to CD's on Sunday; wearing necklaces, dress-codes, etc.  It is also very true what you observed that God's people don't always see the same on particular issues.  I personally grew up with a father who displayed the tender fear of the Lord and yet didn't have any difficulty with particular things that I myself today find questionable.  Yet not for a moment do I doubt my father's relationship to the Lord.  As a child we used to play soccer on the street with the neighbor children.  One time a child of God from within the congregation called on my father and shared how he was bothered by the fact that he allowed us children to play soccer on the street.  Yet this person used to be in professional soccer which had become an obvious sin issue to him.  All soccer, even children playing it, was in his view sin!  For him indeed it was, as it reminded him of his former idol.  But for my father and us kids it obviously wasn't loaded like that.

That's also how you are to consider the various differences between the children of God.  According to Rom. 14 there are differences in degree and understanding of one's faith.  The "weak ones" felt tremendously burdened with particular actions (in Rom. 14 it had to do with eating certain foods and keeping certain days) while the "strong ones" didn't see any sin issues.  In the end God reveals that the weak aren't to "lord over" the strong while the strong aren't to 'despise" the weak.  We need to learn to accept differences in areas that are so-called "grey,"  areas where God has given us allowance to make individual choices.  The issue of wearing a necklace is one of those.  The Bible doesn't condemn necklaces but does condemn the excessiveness, the pride-issues, the worldliness aspects. Yet some who may have been excessive and sinful with ornaments, may upon repentance adopt a very narrow view and seek to enforce that.  Their "narrow view" isn't wrong if it is one of a tender conviction before the Lord but to enforce it upon others is.  So it is with many issues.

Indeed, our consciences are somewhat "shaped " by our upbringing.  If you have always grown up learning that "driving a car on the Lord's Day is sin" than you probably will experience driving a car to church on Sunday as a sin.  Yet, there is absolutely no Biblical basis for condemning the use of a car to come to church on Sunday.  But again, rather than condemning the "weak conscience" we are exhorted to show charity and deny ourselves the use of our liberty.  So if some church would be offended if I would come on Sunday with my car, then I would come on Saturday.
How far do you go to give in to all the various demands or views people around you have?  That's is tough question.  It is my observation that the "shallower the spiritual life becomes, the more the rules multiply in a church."  That was already in the Bible times.  The Pharisees had an exaggerated amount of rules but their religion was ultra-shallow; basically they had no true devotion to the Lord.  Sadly, we see that today again, even in our own churches.  People live by certain 'rules' but have no idea why (as you indicated in your letter) and still they feel somehow better or good because they at least keep the rules.  It is hard to live with such people and then your question, how far do you go to please them, is best answered with another question, "What would the Lord Jesus do in such a case?"  Interestingly, He usually denied Himself His liberty and accommodated Himself to the current expectations.  Yet He also purposely exposed their shallowness and insincerity, hypocrisy and partiality.  He did that through teaching as well as through living.  Eventually He caused the Pharisees so much discomfort, as His works and words testified that all their religion was evil, that they crucified Him.  So what application to your case?  Since you have promised to be under the headship of your husband, you also are to respect him in that and deny yourself the liberties that you may feel you have personally.  That doesn't mean that you have to agree with him in every aspect and I encourage to discuss with him the Biblical basis that we need to establish for what we do.  It is absolutely not enough to say "We do or don't do this because my family always or never did."  We need to be able to formulate our convictions for why we do certain things on God's Word.

For example, your Lord's Day keeping.  Go to Nehemiah and study the last chapters to glean something about the question of discussion business issues on Sunday;  study Is. 58 to consider what God's will is for the Sabbath day;  trace all the instances of Jesus' actions and activities (He went for a meal in a Pharisees' house on the Sabbath day!) and distil from it how He kept the Lord's day; etc.  After all such study, you need to reflect and formulate together how you both will fill in your Lord's day.  Nobody can exactly dictate the details but God has given us the broad principles that are to govern the Lord's Day.  The same goes for dress-code issues; ornaments etc.  I refrain from sharing my personal convictions on these matters because it is you both that need to define the Biblical positions you are to make.

With regard to the "guilt feelings" you may have, again Linda, you need to examine those against God's Word.  Some guilt feelings are unreasonable.  I sometimes feel guilty to take off some time for relaxation but that isn't reasonable because God even patterned the whole cycle of days and nights, seasons as well, for times of rest and refreshments.  Yet our culture can make one feel guilty when one chooses not to be so busy with business, work.   You shared feeling guilty because you listened to a CD on Sunday while your husband isn't home;  you felt sneaky.  That guilt is real because you are in somewhat disregarding the will of your husband (even though your husband may be unreasonably).  If you do it behind his back, I suggest you don't do that.  Rather, share that you respect his opinion but would like to review it Biblically and that you both need to come up with a different solution both can be happy with.  But never go behind your husband's back.  It creates a rift in your relationship and erodes trust. So, I hope I have given you a few guidelines and thoughts.  It is complex  and the issues you raised aren't simply to be answered with more rules.  Some years ago I preached through the Biblical principles about dress-codes.  One member responded with sharing the appreciation but also shared that is much easier to have defined rules given by the leadership.  Yet, the Scripture's principles are clear but the details aren't specified.  This makes God's Word applicable to every culture where the Lord brings His Word.  That's God's wisdom.  What works in the West wouldn't necessarily work in the East.

May the Lord bless you both with wisdom.


Pastor Vergunst