I was reminded this week of the phrase of St. Augustine that John Wesley loved to quote “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” I was reminded not through someone mentioning the quote, but through a conversation in which another person and I took different views on some topics from Scripture. I should clarify what essentials are before I can say what non-essentials may be. In talking about essentials I think we really cannot get away from the Apostle’s Creed. This is not all encompassing, but it is a good place to have a basis for “essentials.”
The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,creator of heaven and earth.
- I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
- who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
- born of the Virgin Mary,
- suffered under Pontius Pilate,
- was crucified, died, and was buried;
- he descended to the dead.
- On the third day he rose again;
- he ascended into heaven,
- he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
- and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- the holy catholic Church (universal church),
- the communion of saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- and the life everlasting.
- In other words, what exactly heaven or hell look like is not as important as believing they exist. It is not as important to argue about how Jesus will return or the events that will lead to His return, but to believe He will return. I could go on and on about the things that we within Christianity argue about, but I think we need to do a better job of responding with charity, especially in non-essentials.