Christian practice – is it based on habit or conscience?  

As pre-teen schoolboys in an English boarding school back in the 1950’s,  we were marched off every Sunday morning to the local church. It was in those formative years, therefore, that I picked up the basics of Christian practice – the traditions, rituals, format of service, and the day we met on. They became habit for me.

So has my Christian practice since been based on habit too, simply going through the same motions I grew up with, and being quite content with that? Or did those habits then become part of my conscience too – to the point it would be wrong in my mind if I didn’t follow the practices I grew up with? 

In which case, how would I deal with changes in my church, like changes in format, doctrine, tradition, ritual, and even the day we meet on? Habits are hard to change, but they can be changed – but what if those changes become a conscience issue too? Maybe not a conscience issue for others, but definitely a conscience issue for me; so now what do I do? 

Well, Paul wrote in Romans 14:23, that “If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning” (New Living Translation) – so following one’s conscience is crucial, isn’t it? Whether my conscience was formed by habit, or not, is not the issue. The issue is, I have a conscience telling me I’m disobeying God if I go along with the changes. So now what do I do?

And what does everyone else do in dealing with me too? Paul says that when a person is “fully convinced in his own mind” that what he’s doing or believing is right in God’s sight, verse 5, and he’s doing them “to the Lord, giving thanks to him,” verse 6, it means  “God has accepted him,” verse 3. But that means we could be stuck as fellow Christians with different and even totally opposite views, so how on earth can we keep the peace between us, or even relate to each other at all?  

Paul’s answer is simple: respect. And he says it in several ways too, like not “passing judgment on each other” (verses 1 and 13), not “looking down” on each other (verses 3 and 10), not “putting any stumbling block or obstacle in our brother’s way” (verse 13), and not “distressing” a fellow Christian by pushing what we believe as “good” and what he believes as “evil” (verse 16), because if that’s what we’re doing we’re “no longer acting in love” (verse 15), and we could even be “destroying the work of God” in a fellow Christian’s life too (verse 20). 

Respect – both ways, of course – means these tricky differences between us can build our love for each other, making us a wonderful example in a world where differences can be so destructive. 

2 thoughts on “Christian practice – is it based on habit or conscience?  

  1. I can remember in my past way of life when differences would often lead to childish debates, for example “It is so,” “it is not”. I trust that our foundation in Christ is so secure that we need not fear that anyone else’s views or opinions can shake us off that loving foundation. This leaves us free to listen to differing ideas without getting overcome with negative emotions. Having this stability is an aspect of real freedom in Christ. I love it! It really leaves us free to accept others in love without having to be led astray by any misconceptions they may have.


  2. Traditions are just that—traditions—the “traditions of men.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say we are to keep the formulas, customs and practices of the “church”—the traditions of the elders, so to speak. This is what is commonly called “churchianity” and is considered a form of bondage. Jesus actually warned against that by saying that the elders have made the commandments of God of none effect by their traditions. (Matt 15:6)

    The word “church” is actually a mistranslation. The original Greek word for “church” is “ekklésia” which means “the called out ones” or the “called out assembly.” According to HELPS word studies, “ekklésia” is “the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls OUT from the world and INTO His eternal kingdom.” In other words, it’s the spiritual “body of Christ.” It has nothing to do with “going to church,” the external form of what is supposed to be an internal calling.

    The source for the word “church” is a bit sketchy. The most probable etymology of the word would be from the Greek phrase “kuriakon oikia”—{kuriakos: belonging to the Lord (kyrios); oikia: house}—thus, “House of the Lord” or “Lord’s House.” So, it’s not the same word as “ekklésia.”

    Another probable source is from the Old English “cirice,” “circe” or “cyrce,” meaning: “place of assemblage set aside for Christian worship; the body of Christian believers, Christians collectively; ecclesiastical authority or power,” from Proto-Germanic kirika (source also of Old Saxon kirika, Old Norse kirkja, Old Frisian zerke, Middle Dutch kerke, Dutch kerk, Old High German kirihha, German Kirche); (the Old Church Slavonic criky, Russian cerkov; Finnish kirkko, Estonian kirrik are from Scandinavian); the Scottish for church is “kirk.” The *PIE (Proto-Indo-European) root is “keue” meaning “to swell” (“swollen,” hence “strong, powerful”), also “vault, hole” ( This PIE root gives the sense of “being puffed up,” if you catch my drift.

    In any case, the Greek adjective “kuriakon/kyriakon” (of the Lord) or “kuriake/kyriake” (Lord’s) was used of houses of Christian worship since about 300 A.D. So the English word “church” more often refers to the building where Christians meet. It’s “an example of the direct Greek-to-Germanic transmission of many Christian words” ( that came to us by way of the Gothic migrations of the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries A.D.

    What I find particularly interesting is that the Old English “circe” for “church” is the same word as “Circe” of Greek mythology. “Circe” was the name of the Greek goddess of sorcery or magic. This name is the Latin form of the Greek “Kirke.” The similarities are too striking to miss.

    Another similar word is “circle” or “circus (ring, circular line).” “Late Old English used circul, from Latin…..of things felt to be analogous to a circle: The meaning ‘group of persons surrounding a center of interest’” (

    Circles were often used in pagan culture as a protective barrier against evil spirits, and are still used by practitioners of paganism today, such as the magic circle or the prayer circles. Oh yeah, the prayer circle is pagan in origin, and all paganism is Babylonian in nature. Nowhere in the Bible does it say Christians are to form a circle to pray. But like so many other modern “traditions of men,” it can be traced back to the early “apostate church” which has adopted a lot of the pagan rites, rituals, and ceremonies.

    Having said all that, we are to “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive any of her plagues” (Rev 18:4). We are to turn away from the binding and blinding “traditions of men,” and to follow the Lord, Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth wherever He goes. I find letting go of the many “church” traditions, one by one, extremely liberating.

    Then Jesus said … “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)


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