In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
I’ve engaged several conversations over the past few days that have all boiled down to one main point – unity. Working together, on the same team, whatever you label it, there is an overwhelming desire to maintain unity and teamwork. In each of these conversations, it has come back to holding a similar set of convictions and desires, enough that we can help one another along.
The sermon at our church (watch the video here) this past week involved the topic of politics and religion. The question was, “Would you rather make a point or make a difference?” The challenge of the message was to remember that many times, in our attempt to make a point we lose the opportunity to make a difference. That is to say, that by pressing a secondary issue, we often miss the main point. For believers, the main point is always to point back to the Cross and what Christ did for all mankind there. He redeemed us, saved us from ourselves and gave us the opportunity to be rescued from the effects of sin.
Often times, we argue and debate over secondary things or what Augustine called the “non-essentials.” It led him to often use the quote above. When we engage one another, we are to strive for unity in the essentials; in the primary things. In the non-essentials, we are to exercise liberty. That is, don’t make priority #2 more important that priority #1. And finally, Augustine says, “…in all things, charity.” I struggle with this part, but I believe he is speaking to our attitude in all things. That we are to be gracious in every situation, in every circumstance.
A favorite quote of mine says it this way, “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” The main thing, for me anyway, will always be Christ and His Gospel. My desire should focus on and stem from the fountain of the Gospel.
As we continue to see denominational in-fighting and, at best, sectarianism within mainstream Christianity, we would do well to focus on playing for the same team. Jesus’ death on the Cross was not motivated by a political party or social agenda. It was not a circus act to garner the most votes in the next election. The Cross was squarely for Almighty God to demonstrate the wrath He possesses against sin and to pour it out upon His Son. No gimmicks, no games.
While we may disagree in the non-essentials, we can still work together so long as there is common agreement in the fundamental things, primarily, the Gospel. If we can agree there, then let’s get to work!
“in essentials unity, in nonessentials diversity, but in all things charity.” -German theologian, Rupertus Meldenius (c. 1627)
Seems to be disagreement on attributing this statement. Another site said Marco Antonio de Dominis too. Most sites said St. Augustine said this and other variations of it.