Why "Non-essential" Discussions are Essential
By Eileen Slattery Berglund
The Moravians are credited with an expression of Christianity that I really love and try to live by:
In the essentials, unity
In the non-essentials , liberty
In all things, love.
I believe there’s merit in discussing non-essentials, topics secondary to salvation, things we don’t have to agree on as Christians. While it can be a risky endeavor, it also can lead to great freedom, acceptance and expansion of God’s Kingdom.
As a doctor, I understand essentials and non-essentials. I understand that there are only a few things that are truly essential to life. Everyone needs their heart to beat, their lungs to exchange gases, and their brain to function as intended. These three could arguably be considered “the essentials.” However, most of our sicknesses aren’t actually a threat to these essentials. Most of our sickness and disease exists in the realm of the “non essential, but still really important” areas of our body, and if ignored, can lead to extreme loss of function or death.
For instance, we are designed to have two kidneys. They are designed so intricately and marvelously to filter our blood, keep its contents at optimal levels, balance pH, and monitor blood pressure. It’s truly amazing! However, we can live without a kidney. Sure, our renal filtration rate drops by 50% but we can still live. We can also live with damage to both kidneys. We won’t live vibrantly, and we won’t live long, but there’s a season where we will live with the damage, until we no longer can.
Our pancreas also plays many roles in our body, one of the greatest is controlling and monitoring our blood sugar levels. When blood sugar is too high, insulin is released to lower it. When blood sugar is too low, glucagon is released to raise it. Often in our society, many people suffer from Type II diabetes, a condition in which the blood sugar remains too high. Factors are such that although the pancreas is still producing insulin (in most cases) it cannot offset the ever increasing load of glucose that is coming in through the diet. The surrounding cells no longer respond to the insulin and the sugar/glucose must remain in the blood. This is damaging to the person, but they can live. They won’t live an “abundant life.” Moreso, their life will be impaired by this disease and dysfunction and they will suffer.
In some instances, there’s not much anyone can do. For example, in the case of kidney disease, artificial filtering of the blood through dialysis will help dramatically and buy some time, but ultimately a kidney transplant will likely be necessary to avoid death. However, in the case of Type II diabetes, it is completely reversible most of the time. It just takes a lot of intentional work to re-establish a new lifestyle and a new way of functioning to avoid the previous problems and address the root of the dysfunction.
When we think about the Church, and how we are the Body of Christ, there is so much we can learn from this analogy. Right now, I want to keep my focus on why there is merit in paying attention to the “non essentials” of the Christian faith.
Believe me, over the past decade I have asked myself if some of the posts I write and discussions I have are even worth the time and energy. I have prayed and spoken with many people worldwide and I have concluded that yes, these discussions are entirely worth having. My goal, though I will never reach it alone, is to bring increased freedom and unity to the Body of Christ. I want to see us truly reflecting the One whose image we were created in.
I want to see healthy, holy relationships in every aspect of society. As Christians, it should begin in our own little bubble we call the “church”. I believe the church is not a building, but a people. I hope most of us are at least coming into that revelation these days. We are the church. The church is a people, not a place. When we gather together to learn and grow and help and be encouraged, we are creating an expression of who God is. We are imaging God to the world and the people around us and unfortunately, we are giving them such a limited view right now. I want us to do our best, individually and corporately, to image Him accurately and well.
So, we must talk about these non essentials, and we should do so with open hearts and humble spirits. I assure you I’m not delusional enough to think that I always succeed at that, but I certainly try my best and can tell you it is a constant theme in my heart.
Just like the human body, the Body of Christ can live, but live sick and diseased. This is not an expression of the “abundant life” God has for us. It is also not an expression of Christ Himself.
To understand His plan for us and His heart toward us, we can look to God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we do that we can see that we have some sickness in our midst, in the Body of Christ. We have areas where we have bought into man’s opinions and man’s rules above God’s opinion and God’s rules. We have practices that are making our corporate Body weaker, and sicker, and less functional. We have crafted our own “drugs” and “surgeries” and “treatments” to try to make things tolerable, less painful, less noticeable. We have often ignored getting to the true root of the problem and finding true restoration of function and relationship. We are a group of people in need of full restoration yet refusing to take the time to put in the necessary energy and discipline. We don’t want to re-evaluate our “diet”. We don’t want to re-examine what we once learned was right. We don’t want our opinions challenged. We don’t want the change. We may think it doesn’t really affect us, so we diminish the importance of the discussion and carry on in our own way without even pausing to evaluate our condition and how it could potentially contribute to the disease. We think, “things are not really that bad”, why bother with all this work?
My answer is because it is worth it! My answer is so that we can enjoy the abundant life that Christ has given us access to! My answer is so others will truly see the real God, the One who so loved all of us, both genders and all races, equally. Even if we don’t agree on everything, we will at least remain united in love!
So as I write and post about gender equality in the church, this is why I do it. I don’t do it to make you feel good or bad. I don’t do it to accuse or relieve you of any wrong-doing. I do it because God has called me to. He has given me this mandate and I will obey Him. I do it to make us think. I do it to drive us back into the scriptures that we all think we know so well, and to take a fresh look at context and content and just see what we think, what Holy Spirit will reveal. I don’t keep track of “likes”, I don’t have a list of people on “my side” or “the other side”. I am not even writing this article in response to anything other than Holy Spirit.
I guess I want to end by saying that none of us has it completely right. This is why we all need to tap into the best versions of ourselves and continue to listen and learn from others. Whether we agree or disagree at the end of the day, we will win by truly listening to others and hearing their perspective on things. There is no threat in hearing someone else’s take on something. And sometimes, we’ll find, when we really listen, when we really humble ourselves, we may even agree with them. Let’s work toward understanding each other more and fighting less. Let’s work toward building more bridges of communication than private battle camps.
These are just my thoughts as I abide. They do not have to be yours. I hope though that something I’ve written will somehow enhance your life and your witness for our beautiful, perfect, love-lavishing God and Savior Jesus Christ.