I’ve noticed that the essentials bring comfort, satisfaction and peace in Christ. Too much focus on the nonessentials results in division and stress that doesn’t honor God.
Life is full of ironies, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s because we live in a world in which some things we first think are right-side up, turn out to be upside down. It’s the humorous side of the Fall, I suppose. Here’s one such situation from the early years of our marriage.
My wife, Ann, was working in a doctor’s office. One Friday afternoon when the doctor was gone, the clerical staff of three ladies were demonstrating to each other their favorite exercises, one of which included sitting cross-legged, yoga style on the floor. Ann wanted to see if she should assume the position that required each foot to rest on the calf of the opposite leg. The feat (pun intended) didn’t exactly come naturally and required a tug. That’s when she heard something snap in her knee. Ouch!
The irony: the physician she worked for was an orthopedist. Thankfully he was very kind and had a good sense of humor. He did the surgery.
But over the years, weakness and pain in that knee required the other knee to work overtime. Factor in a few decades, and the pain in both knees began to limit her mobility significantly. That’s why somewhere along the way toward two knee replacements, I became the official grocery buyer.
I wouldn’t say I mastered the skill, but in finding the staples (bread, milk, etc.) I could usually manage with a single pass through the supermarket. It was the odd stuff that stumped me, items like shoepeg corn. Never heard of it? Me either, but it was a main ingredient in Ann’s corn salad. (Wikipedia says it’s mostly used in Southern cooking … surprise!)
On one of my weekly grocery expeditions, I spent at least 30 minutes searching for shoepeg corn. No, I didn’t ask the clerks. Guys don’t do that. I finally found it on the end of the canned vegetables aisle, bottom shelf, shoved to the back.
That’s when I decided what the world needs is a guys’ grocery store. (Entrepreneurs, take notice!) A guys’ grocery store would offer only one choice per item in a package clearly marked with a single word. There would be no “real mayonnaise,” “light mayonnaise,” or “canola mayonnaise,” just MAYONNAISE, announced in black letters on a white background. I can almost guarantee fewer zombie-like husbands stumbling around the supermarket.
Simplicity – I’m valuing it more and more, not just in mundane things like grocery shopping choices but in determining the essentials and nonessentials of the Christian life. I’ve noticed that the essentials bring comfort, satisfaction and peace in Christ. Too much focus on the nonessentials results in division and stress that doesn’t honor God.
Call it the shoepeg corn syndrome: As we grow older, we find fewer hills worth dying on.
Across the centuries our wise Christian fathers have expressed similar ideas. In the context of unity with other believers, Augustine is often credited with saying, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity.”
Of course, that begs the question, what are the essentials? Once again, those who have gone before us are helpful. From a statement of faith called the Heidelberg Catechism written in the 16th century, here are some staples:
Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer: That I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.*
He owns me; He preserves me; His death paid the penalty for my sin.
Lord, may your grace enable me to live each day in the reality of these essentials.
*All 129 questions and answers of the Heidelberg Catechism (including Scripture proofs) are available at many sites on the Internet.