Recently I found a discussion going on about “What are the non-negotiable s, in Christian faith?” Interesting discussion, and one well worth the time. Dad jotted down some 95 things which the brotherhood had either differed over or divided over.
Some, were ‘big deals,’ while many were not, and over time have been allowed to ‘die’ peacefully (For example: women’s head coverings, women wearing pant suits, playing cards, going to the movies, fellowship dinners in the building, Joy Buses, Serving in the military and going to war, etc…)
While other ‘issues’, have been ‘nurtured’ and allowed to ‘codify’ and become ‘defining’ issues, and divide us, (For example: cups, Bible classes, cooperation, instrumental music, clapping in worship, raising hands in worship and prayer, miracles, etc…)
A proper understanding of what the “non-essentials” are, should at least help us move away from being “Issue oriented,” and help us in “keeping the unity of the Spirit.” The original question of “What are the NON – negotiables of the Christian Faith?” should be pretty simple for us, for our ‘creed’ has always been “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
While this article is not ‘exhaustive,’ perhaps it will at least help get us thinking more.
Perhaps it would help to consider several things:
1. What puts one “into Christ”?
Obviously, one must be ‘born’ of water and the Spirit (John 3; Acts 2), being cleansed by the blood and filled with the Spirit. Since the Lord is the One who ADDS… and the Spirit “FILLS,” who among us is qualified to do the “taking away or draw arbitrary lines?” A Christian is one who has “obeyed the Gospel.” He may not be a very ‘good one,’ in our way of thinking, but may be totally accepted by God (Romans 14: 4, 10).
What puts one into Christ is an ‘essential’, non-negotiable.
2. Christians need to be given ‘space’ to “grow in grace.” We grow at different ‘rates,’ and who has not “grown” through the up’s and down’s of life? Are we “in” and “out” of Christ every day? This sort of thinking, has lead to one Christian who said, “Every day from morning till night, I repeat in my mind, “Forgive me Lord,” “Forgive me Lord,” etc., until bedtime.” GRACE is non negotiable (Ephesians 2:8-10; Galatians 5:4), if we could just gain some ‘balance’ in it. What about I John 1:7? Does the blood of Christ continually cleanse us, or is it a one time thing, and after that “Good luck”? God forbid. It takes time to grow, and change. It takes love and patience to allow for this.
3. Christians may indeed fall away and be lost (Hebrews 6:4-6), but between the ‘sinning’ and the ‘falling away’ and ‘being lost’… there needs to be someone who is “spiritual” to go and at least try and restore (Galatians 6:1-2). It is easy to fall away from a law/works system, but difficult to fall from a grace/faith relationship, (Luke 15:11-32).
(What may help us in deciding what is NON NEGOTIABLE, would be to ask the question, “What would you literally, lay your life on the line for? What were Christians back then, willing to die for? Which “issue,” would motivate you to give your life? “I would give my life for Jesus,” someone says, “but I wouldn’t give my life for a ‘cup’ or …”)
4. What were “lines” which were ‘drawn,’ by Jesus and or the Apostles? Paul spoke “Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (I Timothy 1:20), and “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done” (2 Timothy 4:14). Paul also instructed the Corinthians to deal with this person who was living with his Dad’s wife, (I Corinthians 5). (By the way, there is no example in Scriptures, where one congregation has ‘withdrawn’ from another congregation.) If the Corinthian church existed now, they would be ‘written up,’ and ‘black-balled.’ Paul calls them “saints.” Then what about a Diotrophes (2 John)? Bottom line… my opinion… be careful drawing line… let God ‘draw the line,’ and deal with the ‘weeds.’ Go win souls to Christ.
5. Non-negotiables are just that. These are what puts one in Christ and keeps him there, and results in Heaven as his eternal home. All who are penitent believers, having repented of sins, and been immersed in water, indwelt by the Spirit, are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Over time, hopefully we all will grow and change in grace.