Let’s Stop Majoring on Minors in the Christian Life

The difference between biblical essentials and nonessentials.

Recently a friend related how he was nearly kicked out of his friend’s house for apparently majoring on minors of the Christian life. It seems that he was insisting on what seem to be relatively minor theological points. Later when relating the encounter, he explained that this was a fairly normal experience for him. He said that he has a “prophetic” gifting that compels him to confront.

(this is not the friend referred to in this article)

The issue, it seems to me, is not a prophetic gifting, so much as it is majoring on minors and doing so insistently and ungraciously. But my friend isn’t the only Christian doing this. Many Christians bicker and sometimes separate over minor issues of difference, majoring on minors in the Christian life.

So, what’s the answer? The best way I’ve heard the solution expressed is in the maxim:

“In essentials, unity, in nonessentials, liberty, in all things, charity.”

This guideline is biblical and can be quite helpful to guide us to keep from majoring on minors and yet stand firm on what is vital.

Let’s consider the three parts of this statement about majoring on minors:

1. In essentials, unity…

This means that when there are beliefs integral to the Christian faith, Christians should affirm their agreement with Scripture.

Why Scripture? Because it is our only unshifting, reliable source of God’s Truth.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

In the Bible, we find two kinds of essentials:

  • Beliefs that are central to the Gospel.

These are the beliefs that are affirmed by believers throughout the centuries. They are often expressed in the Creeds and in doctrinal statements of an organization like the one I am leading called Discipleship Journeys with Jesus. You can see our doctrinal statement HERE.

This is why various authors have warned about the book and movie The Shack. It undermines several cardinal doctrines of Christianity. In my article Warning—Stay Out of the Shack!, I reference four articles which spell out the issues, written by four excellent and well-known Bible scholars.

  • Other issues to which the Bible speaks clearly.

There are other topics on which the Bible speaks clearly and on those Christians must take a biblical stand. For example, Scripture says clearly that homosexual practice is sinful and while societal pressure is strong to deny it, we must side with Scripture.

A temptation for many is taking dogmatic stands on issues that are not clear in the Bible. It takes study, discernment and spiritual maturity to know when to stand firm, and when to admit that Bible-believing Christians can have differing views.

2. In nonessentials, liberty…

Scripture speaks quite a bit about Christian liberty. Here’s one example.

So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.” (Colossians 2:17 NLT)

So, we are not to be majoring on minors, but instead to focus on Christ.

But what are minors? Here is a comparison to help keep us from majoring on minors:

EXAMPLES OF ESSENTIALS (see Bible passages below) EXAMPLES OF NONESSENTIALS
Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. How often Christians should take The Lord’s Supper.
Jesus rose bodily from the dead. Various do’s and don’ts for Christians: the use of tobacco, alcohol, dancing, eating pork, style of clothing, and so on.
Faith in Jesus is the only way of salvation. End Times events and chronology. Great Bible scholars have many different understandings of what will happen.

Bible verses that undergird Christian unity in the essentials listed above:

  • Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38)
  • Jesus rose bodily from the dead. (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; Romans 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3-7)
  • Jesus is the only way to salvation. (John 14:6; Acts 4:12, 16:31; Romans 10:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 John 2:23, 4:15; 2 John 1:9)

It isn’t always easy to determine what are majors and when we might be majoring on minors. To help determine which issues are and are not essentials takes:

3. In all things, charity.

Even when we must oppose false teaching, we must remember the principle of charity. Charity in this sense means lovingkindness.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

The practical outcome of our charity (love) is that we will be kind, gracious, appealing and therefore persuasive.

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” (Colossians 4:6 NLT)

An old adage says, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” My friend wasn’t convincing and my hunch is that it was because whether he realized it or not, he was vinegar instead of honey, concerning issues which are not even essentials of the Christian faith.

In conclusion, may this great statement guide us:

Instead of majoring on minors, let’s focus on essentials and always, always speak and act in love.

What do you think? Have I truthfully covered the point? Your thoughts are welcome! Please leave your comment below. Just remember that if you disagree, to do all things in charity!

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