In Essentials - Unity
In non-Essentials - Liberty
In all things - Charity
Attributed to Saint Augustine
What an important reminder for the life of the church today.
The devil loves it when the church doesn't know how to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials.
Essentials are worth dying over, let alone splitting over. Essentials - that Jesus is the only way to salvation, that the Bible is authoritative, that Jesus died for us and rose again from the grave - are worth dying for. We need unity in the essentials.
However, there are many areas in which people of good faith differ. These are best described as family squabbles. They may be about how we set the table, or how we celebrate holidays, etc. but these are internal disagreements. And they show up in the life of the church in disagreements of all sorts - worship style preferences, who is welcome to receive communion, infant baptism, role of women, how to tackle tough issues like pornography, addictions, drugs, and alcohol - do we address them head on or skirt around them - etc.
In these areas of non-essentials, the church must practice liberty. Because when the church fights to the death and splits over these issues, it totally undermines the ministry and the mission of the church of Jesus Christ in the world.
And when this happens, the devil has a field day with the impotence of the church.
Because what we are to demonstrate in all things is the spirit of Christ in how we handle disagreements. We are to demonstrate charity in all things.
More than ever, as the church finds herself at the crossroads in many different areas, we need to recover how to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, and listen once again to one of the giants of the faith.