In men’s group last night, we talked about what a loving community of Jesus-followers looks like. We talked extensively about the differences between denominations, and the pitiful, trivial reasons we aren’t unified as one Body of Christ. If it weren’t so sad, it would be laughable.

The question to ask when deciding to partner with others from another denomination is, “Do they believe in Jesus Christ and him crucified as the Son of God?” That is the “essential” question as author James Bryan Smith says in The Good and Beautiful Community.

Could all our others differences be “non-essentials?”

Smith goes on to say, “The essential is our identity as people in whom Christ dwells. Tolerance is not our primary aim; nor is equality. Our highest aim is love. Our primary focus is on Christ as Lord.”

We will always have differences in doctrine and methodology. We will always have differences in style, how we dress, what we sing, and how we worship our God. Yes, we have major differences. But as Pastor Brandon said last night, “Are they deal-breakers?”

James Bryan Smith says:

“I am not liberal and I am not conservative. I am an apprentice of Jesus. I am simply trying to discern that which that which is essential and that which is non-essential. For me, the basic teaching found in the creeds (the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed) is essential. Everything else is non-essential. Not unimportant, just not important enough for me to divide from those who share the same belief in the essentials.”

For me, this rocks my world. It has me re-examining my “essentials” and my “non-essentials.” I wonder how different the Body of Christ – The Church – would look if we all did the same. I wonder if the watching world would respond differently to the Good News.

There are important differences, to be sure. Each must decide what is essential and non-essential. But that shouldn’t stop us from our highest aim: love.

Love never fails.