Unity, Liberty, Charity
Saturday - April 17th
Scripture to Read Today: Philippians 1:21-30
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.
Perhaps one of the most famous quotes from church history comes from Augustine of Hippo. The man known as Saint Augustine was born in 354 A.D. He is one of the most prolific writers of the early church. The famous quote attributed to Augustine addresses an issue that the New Testament Church in the Book of Acts dealt with and with which churches today still wrestle.
The problem has to do with how we handle the essentials and the non-essentials of the faith. In the earliest days of the church, a division emerged around what Jewish practices rooted in the Old Testament needed to be adopted (if any) by new believers who had no Jewish background. A gathering of church leaders determined in Acts 15 that not all of the laws regarding religious customs had to be adopted by new believers - especially outward symbolism such as circumcision. It was not considered wrong if some did adopt these external symbols to help bring unity with other believers.
While the specific issues might be different, the church today still grapples with how we handle the essentials and non-essentials of our faith. How do we work together for Christ and His Kingdom if we hold different views on specific issues? Here is the quote attributed to Augustine that helps in these matters:
In essentials, unity;
in non-essentials, liberty;
in all things, charity.
What a simple and profound statement! Our unity must be around the essentials. On the minor things of life and the faith, we must extend liberty, freedom, and grace to each other. No matter what, we must show love to each other in every and all things.
In Philippians 1:27, Paul says to the Philippian Church that whether he sees them again or hears of them, He desires to know that they "stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel." We, too, are called to that same standing firm in the one Spirit. Striving together for the gospel means it would be best for us to follow the suggestion of Augustine. We need to be united in the essentials, embracing liberty in the non-essentials, and demonstrating love always and in all things.
Go out of your way today to express your love for a brother or sister in Christ with whom you may not have always agreed. Find a way to let them know that you love them in the Lord, and nothing will change that.
Our pursuit of unity requires us to show love and show grace to one another for the honor and glory of the Lord!