'Day One' Blog

What IS the MAIN Thing

photo by Jean Philippe Delberghe – courtesy of Unsplash

Unity within the body of Christ is fragile in the best of times. The tensions of 2020 have taken their toll on that unity in ways I have not personally experienced before. I’ve heard a few Christians lately talk about keeping the main thing the main thing. In the growing number of conversations (more like confrontations) surrounding controversial hot-buttons, I am feeling the need to know for certain what the main thing even is. The phrase reminds me of something oft-quoted by my husband—

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

German Lutheran theologian, Rupertus Meldenius

To keep the main thing the main thing, I have to know what is essential as a Christ-one. What are the indispensable elements without which we cannot function as the body of Christ? What are those things that bind every follower of Jesus to every other follower of Jesus? Do you know? Do you know for certain? Until you and I know, we cannot begin to understand what is non-essential— what falls into the sphere that would call for liberty.

You’re about to read my list-in-progress. This will be potentially the most controversial part of this post. But we have to start here or we’re going to keep getting stuck and we’re going to remain divided.

What is essential? What is the main thing?

1. Christ-ones are to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength (Duet. 6:5; Duet. 10:12; Mark 12:30).
2. We are to do for others what we wish they would do for us (Matt. 7:12).
3. We are to consider others as better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-8).
4. We are to love others as we are loved by Jesus (John 13:34).
5. We are to be witnesses for Jesus to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 52:6-8; Acts 1:6-8).

These are commands. They apply to all who call Jesus Lord. Our demographic is the whole of humanity— friend, and enemy alike (Matt. 5:43-48). A person should not be able to tell whether someone is my friend or enemy based on the way I love them. A person should be able to see Christians from a mile away because of how we love one another within the body. After all, Christ-ones are bound together, each of us expected to make our unique, indispensable contribution to the health of the body (1 Cor. 12:12-26).

I would venture to say that most of us are feeling the crippling effects of disunity within the body of Christ. I know the world sees it– finding us pitted against one another just like they are. So what do we do about this? How do you and I fight to restore and then protect unity in the body?

If I have even one relationship that is suffering because of a difference of opinion concerning politics or race or any other hot-topic, I know I have a job to do. First I MUST seek the counsel of the most high God. Then I have to make the call and make the date to meet and talk and LISTEN. I must pursue unity so far as I am able (Rom. 12:18). I must love even and especially if differences remain between us. I must not let those differences, however passionately held, drive a wedge between me and my brother or sister. I must pursue unity and be willing to maintain it (Ephesians 4:2-4). This will cost me time and perhaps a smidge of dignity. It will require the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. It’s worth it. It’s critical. And it’s at the heart of what deeply matters to our Lord (John 17:9-23).

How wonderful, how beautiful,
    when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
    flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
    flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
    flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
    ordains eternal life.

Psalm 133: 1-3 (The Message)


  • Diana Hermann

    Your article has helped me with something I have been pondering for some time now, “only one thing is necessary” from Luke 10:41-42. I’ve been asking the Lord and myself for quite a while what that “one” thing is and now I think I have my answer, it is love. Love for God and love for others. As someone mentioned, “faith, hope and love, but the greatest of them is love”. (1 Cor. 13:13) Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Lisa Smith

    There are some very powerful concepts here. Agreeing on essentials might be the hardest part, but, you’re right, Anne, that seems to be the way forward. And choosing to love even when we don’t agree on essentials. If I am to love Christians and non-Christians alike, then maybe there aren’t even any essentials. (Obviously, this comment is stream-of-consciousness!) Maybe I just cover a multitude of sins with love. I like your ending the best–it matters greatly to God that we love each other. Thanks for this post.

  • Ale H

    Hi dear Anne,

    I finally made it to your wonderful blog! I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts around what is the main thing, what matters the most. I feel that most times we get entangled and lost into the complications we ourselves created for what we call our “modern life”. This pandemic has shaken our core and has brought up the best and the worst in many. I look forward to meeting people who are different or think differently than me. I take that as an opportunity to learn from other’s experiences and perspectives. I want them to tell me things I did not know and challenge my beliefs. Either way, it will always make me grow. As a believer, I think this special time we are going through is an opportunity to cancel the unwanted noise, look inside ourselves and re-focus on the essentials. To me, those are: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of them is LOVE. (1 Corinthians 13:13). God loves us unconditionally. The least we could do is try to spread that unconditional love to all those around us.

    Much love to you and your precious family! Thank you for sharing your heart with us! -Ale Holmen

    • Anne Barbour

      Yes, Ali!! You have the right lens on all of this!! I’m so grateful you would take the time to share your thoughts here! They encourage me and will encourage others too! I love you and yours SO MUCH!

  • Kirk

    YES! This is spot on. I’m struggling right now that many brothers and sisters in faith are becoming enemies over non-essentials. Not only are we called to love our enemies, we are also called to not create enemies in our own family of faith.

  • Luann Budd

    Absolutely right. I couldn’t agree with you more. Unity of the Body is a distinguishing mark and that has to be built on the foundation of LOVE, Christ’s love, not all of us thinking the same or voting the same but LOVE. Love for Jesus. Love for each other. Love for the world.

  • Nancy

    Another beautifully written and pertinent communiqué to all who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Thank you for taking the time to express such heartfelt truth and motivation! May each of us fix our thoughts on what is true and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable… things that are excellent and worthy of praise!

  • Ida

    Thank you so much for seeking Gods wisdom in sharing this. I was at our park coffee and fellowship time in the park where we now live, in FL. Because of the changes going on in the church, our pastor asked us “so what do we think the new church will look like”? Your statement Anne is so appropriate. We are all the church and we all have a responsibility to represent Jesus in all we do. He is the main point. So well put. Thank you and blessings to you and John.
    I met with Pam and Kay two weeks ago when we were in Asheville.♥️

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