Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences, A Christian Perspective, Part One
For those of us who are followers of Christ, our unity is in Christ. Full stop. Perhaps you have heard this old phrase: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.”
- What are the essentials for a Christian? A belief in Jesus Christ as our personal savior – faith alone; a belief and trust in the Holy Bible as our one source of Truth – Scripture alone. That’s it! Here is where we have our unity.
- What are the non-essentials? Things such as baptism, political parties, gun control, role of women in the church, etc. Here we can allow liberty and difference of opinion. If we are using the Scriptures as our basis for discussion, we will often come up with different interpretations and opinions. We must allow for those differences of opinions.
- What is Charity? Charity is the old term for love. Here is where we get the command to love one another as he has loved us. It does not say love one another if they agree with you. Or if they look like you. Or if they have the same religion!
So, how do we do this? First, we can know there is Truth. True objective absolute truth. In our culture, that idea is not popular. However, we can and should encourage and remind one another that there IS Truth. How do we know that? We have the Bible that tells us of a God that is beyond our earthly knowledge, that is transcendent and other-worldly. HE has established Truth. It is not dependent on our experiences, emotions, “facts,” nor culture. Those all can change. But God. Does. Not. Change! There is Truth and we can know it.
However, and this is the BIG however. We are fallen people. None of us can perfectly understand Truth or interpret the Bible. We learn things and then later learn we (or the pastor or teacher or ???) were wrong. (Gasp!) The Bible tells us our hearts are “deceitfully wicked.” We want to convince ourselves all the time that we have it right, that we interpret the Bible correctly, that we know God’s mind. And those people don’t!
How absurd! How arrogant!
We must always, always relate to Scripture and the people around us with humility. We might get things wrong. We might interpret something differently than someone else and find out they were right. Or maybe they were wrong, and we were right. When will we find out? In heaven. Perhaps sooner, but maybe not before then.
In relating to the people in our lives with whom we disagree, we must always have a spirit of humility. We must recognize our propensity to get things wrong.
Also, we must always treat one another with respect and dignity. Though I may disagree with you, I still recognize God’s image in you. You are valuable. You are loved. You are human. You are worthy of my respect and dignity and kindness.
We must stop. Stop denigrating someone when they do not agree with us. Stop complaining that they are doing something we do not like.* Stop. Just stop. Do not say anything if it cannot be respectful, full of dignity toward other people. Just stop.
Let yourself be challenged this week to show unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity to all.
*Complaining about something we do not like is not the same as speaking out against evil, such as sexual and/or child abuse.
 Ross, Mark. “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius.” For more information, see this site.