In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. And in all things, charity.
This statement has been attributed to various church leaders, including Saint Augustine and John Wesley. Many believe it outlines a way for Christians to live together, even when we do not always agree.
In essentials, unity.
Core beliefs and practices central to Christianity cannot be conceded without compromising the faith. The issue arises in defining what is “essential.”
For some, the core is quite small. In the midst of the summer heat, one church sign read: Too hot to change sign. God good. Sin bad. Come inside for details!
For others, the core is much larger. Consider the homepage for the Truth Baptist Church in Atwater, Ohio: We are an independent, fundamental, soul winning, premillennial, evangelistic, pretribulation, local church oriented and KJV 1611 believing church. THEN you can go to their doctrinal summary page!
In my opinion, the Apostles Creed concisely states the central tenets of the faith. The two great commandments teach us how to live: Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 28 tells us the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
In nonessentials, liberty.
Not everything is of equal importance. Know the difference between essential and nonessential, central and peripheral, foundational and marginal. It can be important to me without it being important to you; and it can be important to you without it being important to be. Sometimes we can agree to disagree.
Other issues can be more contentious and controversial when it comes to politics, social issues, life styles, and more. However, we are constantly called to keep the main thing the main thing and major on the majors and minor on the minors.
In all things, charity.
We cannot always agree on what’s essential. We often argue about what’s nonessential. But let us at least agree on this final principle: LOVE. On his final night with the disciples, Jesus said: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Love is like a mustard seed. It doesn’t take much—just a tiny amount to be planted in the soil of our souls. Tend it with time and care, and it will grow unseen. When it blooms, it becomes a home big enough for everyone to live beneath its shade.
If we truly believe what we say we believe, then we’re going to spend eternity together. Maybe we should learn to love one another a little better in the meantime.