I’ve had a few different instances in my life lately that have centered around the idea of nonnegotiables within the Christian faith. Some of these instances have been conversations and some from my reading. I had a rather interesting conversation with a neighbor of mine who proceeded to tell me that I was “almost there” because I loved God but I didn’t agree with the 5 points of Calvinism (whatever being “almost there” means). On the flip side of that, I was reading Mark 9 the other day and it says this: “Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.” (Not sure where TULIP fits in with the cup of water) Then I happened upon a pastor in seattle’s blog. I took a look at his beliefs page and was amazed at how long it was. Not only does he lay out what he does believe, but he also makes sure we know what he doesn’t believe. I had to wonder after reading all the little details- is all this stuff really helpful for me or would it just end up taking my eye of the ball? Clearly, whatever the absolute essentials are, everyone seems to have a different idea of what they look like in the course of their spiritual lives and everyone still seems to be “right” in their understanding. What gives?
In his book, “The Holy Longing”, Ronald Rolheiser writes about the pursuit of a balanced Christian spiritual life. I’m through the fifth chapter and so far, it’s an amazing book. In the third chapter Rolheiser writes about what he calls the “Nonnegotiable Essentials” of a healthy Christian spirituality. Based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, he comes to the conclusion that there are four essential actions that Jesus calls us to in order to have a healthy and balanced spirituality: a) Private prayer and private morality b) social justice c) mellowness of heart and spirit and d) community as a constitutive element of true worship. Rolheiser emphasizes that even though all of these actions individually are still good, if a healthy spiritual life is the goal, none of them can be ignored.
After I read these, I instantly connected with them because Christian faiths of all shapes and sizes can fit into these four actions very nicely. Whether you’re a Quaker or a Baptist or a Catholic or a Non-denominational Evangelical, these actions can be at your foundation all the same. Also, these important actions avoid the doctrinal bickering and dogma that we so often find in the Christian culture. I would propose that if any of us are really serious about practicing these four directions from Jesus, we may simply not have the time to argue about how our system of beliefs is more superior than our other Christian brothers and sisters. If I were truly busy with the application of these directions, maybe I wouldn’t even be writing this blog post. Maybe so, but I’m gonna squeeze it in anyway if that’s ok.
I’d like to take a shot at my first “series” on finding rhythm and walk through these different “nonnegotiable essentials” as Rolheiser lays them out in this book. This will serve as an introduction and an opportunity to open this up to a discussion in the comments section and each post after this one will deal with one of the four nonnegotiables. With that said, I’d love to hear from everyone who reads this blog. What are your “nonnegotiables” and what is your reaction to Rolheiser’s conclusion? I’d love to hear from all of you.