Our culture is coming to a collective emotional head in this time of isolation, especially in communities of faith. The number one issue we are all facing is fear – fear of losing control. It could be our fear that the “normal” we once knew might go away and never return. Sometimes this fear is manifested when an opinion is expressed that breaks rank with a narrow interpretation of a critical issue causing someone to be pushed out of the orbit of a familiar relationship they once knew.
When an early Church leader wrote the poignant words, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things love” he gave us a key to help us navigate through this challenging season, primarily through the area called the non-essentials. Non-essential does not mean unimportant. It is referring to something not worth destroying years of relationship over.
What lies between the bookends of essential truth and expressing love is where we can encounter relational jeopardy. When an opinion, which is the realm of a non-essential, is allowed to become essential or a reason not to love, we are in trouble. A single idea expressed outside what was considered acceptable is sometimes all that an individual or group needs as a reason to say goodbye to a relationship, and punish the opposing viewpoint with separation and silence.
We have all been guilty of this offense at one time or another. Our fear, if not disciplined, will weaken our most cherished theology or, worse, destroy the bond of love in our relationships. That is always such a sad and disheartening experience.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3”12-14).