“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”
If only…oh, if only we as a Church could take this quote seriously. Imagine what kind of Church we would be? Gays and lesbians would be taking communion right alongside staunch conservatives. People of other faiths would be welcomed, respected, and perhaps even admired by Christians. Political lines just might disappear. When someone says something controversial, we’d affirm their bravery in speaking up before we voice our own opinions. Different denominations, different expressions of worship, different ways of living out faith, different points of view, different everything would celebrated as the gift of diversity God has given us instead of being treated with skepticism and a hand reaching to wield the Bible against “different”.
Sigh. Probably never going to happen, huh? We humans are a bit too caught up in our sin nature to ever get to that place corporately. But thinking about all the divisiveness in the Church makes me wonder how close we really are to God’s idea of what it looks like to be wholly devoted to him. Maybe we’re a whole lot farther away than we thought! Maybe I’m a whole lot farther away than I think! Now there’s a scary thought.
Of course, Ropertus Meldenius’ quote also begs the question: what are the essentials? In my mind, the essentials can be boiled down to three things:
- Jesus lived, was crucified, buried, and resurrected as God incarnate.
- We as Christians are called to obey the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.
- God the Trinity is sovereign, the only source of Love and Truth.
Of course, I’m no theologian. I haven’t studied the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation multiple times or anything like that. These three essentials aren’t coming from a place of knowing it all. They’re just coming from a place that says, “If any of these three things isn’t essential to my faith, then I have no faith to stand on.” And it’s the truth. If the Gospels are just a fictional story, or if Jesus was just a prophet and not the Messiah, then there never was a demonstration of the kind of Love I believe my God is capable of. Salvation was never tangible for humankind, and I have no reason to believe in Love. And if I don’t believe I’m called to obey what Jesus commanded me, then there is no framework for my Christain faith, no guidelines to keep me on the “straight and narrow” and no conviction for my sin. And if God is not sovereign, if He is not the only Maker ever to exist, if He is not the source of everything that is beautiful and good and pleasing in this world, then what kind of god or gods would I be worshipping anyway?!
This isn’t all that thought through, in case you didn’t notice. I’m more just trying to establish what I think may be the “essentials”, what doctrines I should be firm about and defend fiercely. As for all the other things I think are true about my religion and this world, I should be—and am trying to be—willing to hold with an open hand, willing to let it fly away if I come to understand I was wrong, and it’s not actually from God. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but I truly think I’m learning it, and seeing a refined form start to take place out this muddled, screwed up mess that I call my religion.