When it comes to our faith, what is not up for debate?
What are the hills we are willing to die on? The lines we are willing to draw in the sand?
It seems we have a lot of those lines and hills. Thou shalt not cross this line, or thou shalt be thrown out of the gates, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The more complex our society becomes, the more choices we have, the more divided we can be.
A few weeks ago, a blog friend asked on Facebook if Christian unity were possible, without compromising “non-negotiable” tenants of our faith. Those non-negotiables are important. So I’m wondering if, in our sea of dividing lines, our nearly infinite “non-negotiables,” could we do it?
An Army of One
I have to admit it. There are a lot of Christians with whom I do not have a lot in common. Many times, I cringe at another Christian’s culture: their clothing with Jesus slogans, their music, their vocabulary. And I flat out disagree with just about anyone on at least one major point of faith. Sometimes, it’s easier for me to relate to people outside Christian culture than in.
It has gotten to the point that I really am not sure where I fit into the Christian spectrum. Is there a label or a category for a guy like me? I don’t know. I haven’t found enough people who share my tastes and opinions to know.
It occurs to me that this isn’t necessarily the fault of everyone around me. Maybe my gag reflex is too sensitive.
It also occurs to me that the Army’s slogan, “An Army of One” has become more and more fitting for my life. As I indulge my reflex to divide myself from others and chart my own course, I suddenly look around to find myself frighteningly alone. As Christians continue to divide (instead of multiplying), we are almost building churches of one or denominations of one. Of course, the advantage is that our churches of one are perfectly suited to all of our own tastes and opinions.
One More Non-Negotiable
Some people list tenants of faith as their “non-negotiables.”
Other people might mention social issues as “non-negotiables.”
What they mean by this is that if another Christian does not agree on those topics, then it is time to break company. Those things are not up for debate, and Christian fellowship is not possible when people disagree on non-negotiables.
What if we actually added one more non-negotiable to our list? What if that non-negotiable was unity?
What if we said, no matter what, that we will embrace, love, encourage people who call themselves Christians? What if unity was given the same priority as every other sacred cow we hold dear?
I can feel some of you already bristling a little bit. Your antenna perked up there. The hairs on your neck may have stiffened a bit. You’re thinking, “How is that possible?” “What if they think…” “What if they don’t believe…”
I don’t know. It’s just a question. What would happen if Christians actually made Christian love an unity a non-negotiable agreement, like a marriage contract?
What would be the worse-case scenario if Christians decided to love each other no matter what?
The Most Important Spiritual Discipline
The thing is, I never learned this in my Christian college…
I learned all about dividing lines. I learned about the vocabulary I was supposed to use or not use. I learned all about the hills where I was supposed to give up my life. I was taught how to sniff out and “respond” to all the fake Christians who would be assaulting me and my precious faith.
And I learned all about spiritual disciplines. I learned about historical practices of prayer, contemplation, fasting.
But I go to the gospel, and I don’t see Jesus telling his friends, “Make sure you pray an hour a day.”
He doesn’t tell them to make sure they fast or they really ought to keep a prayer journal.
But he does lay down one non-negotiable. A spiritual discipline that will be so much harder than keeping “quiet time.”
I don’t have to tell you what it is. But it’s been the challenge of my life.
What if we resolved that even if we failed at every other spiritual discipline, we kept that one that Jesus actually mentioned, to love one another?
What do you think? How do we go about adding one more non-negotiable, one more spiritual discipline? What do you think has been the long-term consequence of centuries of constant division? What would be the consequence if we could change that?