'Day One' Blog

NON-Essentials & the HEART

photo by Jean Philippe Delberghe – courtesy of Unsplash

In essentials unity,
in non-essentials liberty,
in all things charity.

German Lutheran theologian, Rupertus Meldenius

It’s one thing to acknowledge and even agree with this quote. It’s another thing altogether to live it out. I started exploring the quote in my last post, asking if I knew for certain what essential beliefs bind us together as the family of God. The idea is that everything outside those essential beliefs would be seen as non-essential. In those non-essential areas, I would choose to extend liberty— the freedom to think differently than I think.

That leaves space for me to passionately hold to my preferences, without losing sight of my Christian siblings’ freedom to do the same. If I’m going to do that with integrity, it can’t be predicated on whether or not my brothers or sisters extend that same liberty to me. I have to do it because I know it’s the right course of action – period.

Further, humility must blanket the act of granting liberty. There can be no air of superiority. There must never be an attitude where I imply, “Go ahead with your inferior, wrong view. You have the liberty to be wrong! I’ll be here when you come ‘round to the truth.” Kindness and tenderness must lead the way as I seek to hold the tensions inherent in relationships with differing points of view.

In marriage, I reserve space for non-essential differences of opinion. I understand that my husband and I are going to have them, and choose to hold to the bonds of unity in love within our covenant relationship. Imagine Christ, our Bridegroom, responding to our differing points of view with hate-speech, or even lording our inferior opinions over us. Such would never be the case, even though He would be in the right.

We are flawed creatures in relationship with other flawed creatures. Each of us are maturing at the pace set for us by the Holy Spirit. We are too often missing the forest for the trees by elevating rightness over relationship. Should we be passionate about the things we believe the Lord has directed us to be passionate about? Without hesitation! But our hearts must remain tender toward those in the family of God who do not agree with our perspective.

One day we will relearn the art of loving-communication. When we do we will enter into conversations, eager to tap into the heart of the other. Together we will go to the One who knows everything about everything. We’ll seek Him side by side with our differing opinions out in the open. We will remember how little we understand, even in our areas of expertise, and that will keep us teachable and contrite.

We will begin to champion each other again, and being right will no longer be of primary concern. Loving one another as Christ loves us will retake center stage. We’ll find ourselves having created an environment where granting liberty in non-essentials is normal. And then watch out! We just might find ourselves overrun with people wanting to join our ranks.

Love one another fervently
with a pure heart.

1 Peter 1:22


  • Lisa Smith

    This is a great post, Anne. Thank you for it. It really illuminates how to approach differences with a heart of love. I appreciate your wisdom.

  • Diana Hermann

    Once again you’ve written something I needed to hear. I confess I have often had the attitude, “Go ahead, you have the right to be wrong.” On so many issues, how do I know they are wrong, maybe I’m the one who is wrong?! Thank you again for your insight and your heart.

    • Anne Barbour

      It’s a delicate thing to pursue those things we are passionate about and still maintain the unity among the brethren so vital for our health as the body of Christ! We are all learning! Thank you so much for your comments, Diana!

  • Luann Budd

    I appreciate this call to “agree to disagree.” Our denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church, was founded on this principle allowing room for differing perspectives on non-essentials and agreeing to lovingly disagree on what was seen as possible biblical interpretations. So their guiding questions became: Where is it written? and, How goes your walk? This means that parents can choose to have their babies baptized, or dedicated; people can differ on when they think the Rapture will take place (a millennial, pre-millennial, post-millennial), etc. The idea is that unity is a very high value, not to be broken lightly. I wasn’t raised in this denomination, but I’ve really valued that we don’t all have to agree on everything.

    I’ve also been studying and leading a study on James. I’ve been struck by how strong he is about how we talk to each other. It really matters…and I think that if James were living today, he’d extend his writing to include how we respond to each other on social media, too. The way we comport ourselves gives evidence of our faith.

    • Glen Holmen

      Anne, this is such good insight in a time of dreadful ugliness. Yes, nuance and grace. Yes, champion one another again. Do we seek to have a connection or are we trying to win? Ultimatums or relationship? Sure, we’ll have a President in office on Nov 6th. The question is, will we have any relationships on Nov 7th?

  • Kathy Collard Miller

    Inspiring thoughts and worthy goals, indeed commandments for the Body of Christ. Well said, thought out, and expressed, Anne. Thank you! Write on!

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