I Hope I Cause You to Stumble

“Can I get my ears pierced?”  Perhaps for most readers, having their nearly-16 year-old daughter ask that question would stimulate a thought process no more complex than if she’d asked what was for supper.  However, coming from my Christian subculture, the topic of jewelry and ear-piercing has traditionally carried a weight similar to discussions regarding same-sex marriage or abortion.

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As my daughter made her request that day a year ago, I remembered my own similar request as a young lady. In response, I was given a booklet about why Christians who really want to follow God won’t wear jewelry. The booklet was primarily based on a couple of New Testament verses that I read and considered – but I didn’t see the connection. In my opinion the texts had been taken out of context and selectively applied. When I questioned the application of the texts, I was told that sometimes we just do things we may not understand in order to fit in with a social group. If we want to be part of the group, we do what they say. I accepted and complied. Now with 30 more years under my belt, I can accept that guidance as reasonable in regards to membership in a club or other social group, but I bristle at the suggestion that it is a good reason to follow religious traditions. You see the social group is saying “This is what you need to do and look like to fit in with us.”  The standards of the club make a statement about the character of its members. However, by its very nature, the church is saying “This is what you need to do and look like to be acceptable to God.”  The standards of a church make a statement about the character of God. That carries a whole different psychological and spiritual weight.  So while I have no problem with a social group saying I must do the happy-dance at the door or wear my hat to the left side in order to be a member, I don’t agree with a church making arbitrary requirements of its members.

The other “devout Christians don’t do that” arguments against jewelry are generally geared toward the topics of good stewardship and avoidance of vanity. While I agree those are important principles to consider when making decisions, I would have to say they apply to a whole bunch of things in life – the least of which is a $5 or even $50 set of earrings.  Yes, I could spend $5,000 more on a set of earrings, which would be extravagant for me and a poor stewardship choice. But a person could spend $5,000 more on a house or car or vacation or hobby. I don’t think we’re ready to ban those purchases or be the “extravagant” monitors.

My daughter got no booklet nor sermonette the day she asked about ear piercing. Her ears are now pierced, as are mine. She asked me for a list of rules about the when, where and what of proper earring use. We discussed the principles of stewardship, thoughtfulness toward those who don’t believe as we do, and modesty, but I didn’t give her a checklist. I trust her to make wise decisions in this area of her life, as she does in others.

Some of you might imagine that this has been a year filled with a sense of freedom for me, having broken the spiritual chains that bound me. But honestly, some aspects of it have been a struggle. The disparity between my personal tastes vs what I was taught a good Christian must look like, left me feeling uncomfortable. Ironically I have continued wearing my earrings, not out of some mid-life rebellion-based “I’ll show them” attitude, but out of the principle of the matter. I’ve found it requires me to trust more in the character of God when I accept there is no checklist of “things to do to please God” that will win me His favor. I have continued searching for fulfillment in a relationship with my Creator rather than in a list of requirements or in pleasing others. I have found my earrings inconsequential to that search.

If your church background is similar to mine, my earrings may upset you. If they do, I hope they cause you to stumble out of any works-oriented traditions that have provided a false sense of value and instead stumble into a genuine relationship, grounded in faith, with the God who made you, loves you, and longs for you.

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2 Comments

  1. Teresa Thompson

     /  May 18, 2015

    Thanks for such thoughtful insights into the outward adornment issue. I wore jewelry as a young person, but gladly took it off when I became a Christian. Mostly because, for me, I felt too proud wearing it. But I know others don’t struggle with that as much as I did, and I totally respect their reasons for wearing it or not; but it took me awhile to get to that point. I had to learn that judging others for wearing it was just as much an issue of pride as when I took mine off. Romans 14:3 says “not to dispute over DOUBTFUL things.” and v. 5 says “let each be fully convinced in his OWN mind.” (I’ve even allowed myself to wear a wedding ring now and then. So think, I’m making headway.)

    Reply
    • Good points. Abstaining for one person can be as much of a god as indulging for another. Anything we do or rely on to cure ourselves of what ails us – is the thing we worship. God reads the heart.

      Reply

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