This week has seen the news and Facebook filled with all kinds of posts in regards to a new bill passed in the State of Indiana. The bill deals with Religious Freedom, but some are not sure whether or not it is setting up opportunity for discrimination. I am reading good arguments for and against it from friends of mine and from various other journalists. Do I think it is good? Maybe. Do I think it can do harm to reaching lost people for Christ? Definitely. Do I think we have to remember that if we are followers of Jesus we are to live as His unique people, as resident aliens (Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon have a great book on this entitled “Resident Aliens”), as people of God’s Kingdom above all else? Absolutely.
I don’t know how I would respond if I was a legislator trying to draft bills and laws for the greater good of all people, or if I was a business owner trying to live out my faith in uncompromising ways, but I know how Christ calls us to live:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
And again Jesus says this:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In the middle of all these conversations a phrase from St. Augustine that John Wesley loved to quote has come to mind and is one I think is important for us today. “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” I was reminded not through someone mentioning the quote, but through the online conversations (or arguments). I was also reminded through various conversations that we find ourselves on differing sides of not just political, but theological issues as well. 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. Amen.
In other words, what exactly heaven or hell look like, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, whether transubstantiation matters, or any other matter that doesn’t concern the salvific message of Jesus, is not an essential. 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. We must remember that it is love that Jesus calls to be the defining characteristic of His people. Love doesn’t say yes to sin, but it is not a hammer to beat someone over the head. Love is winsome, because in Jesus, love wins out.