In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things love
These words, written by St. Augustine, are some of the most important words written outside of Scripture. While the words of Augustine are not written in the Bible, they are no less biblical in their foundation and message. The message of the Bible and St. Augustine is a message of unity.
Jesus’ teaching on unity
In Jesus’ high priestly prayer He reminds His followers, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:22 NIV). Jesus calls all Christ-followers to be united. It is the glory inside each Christ-follower that breaks through all denominational barriers and brings unity around the Cross of Jesus. Augustine was correct when he asserted, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things love.” Jesus calls us to be united and live in a oneness that the world can’t ignore.
Unity and love
Jesus brings into sharp focus the importance of unity and love. In John 17:23 Jesus teaches, “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (NIV) The result of the world seeing unity and love in Christ-followers is that Jesus would be known. When denominationalism becomes more important than God’s Kingdom, the world sees chaos and infighting rather than the love of God.
Are we to have unity at all costs?
The subject of unity must always be based on biblical truth. When Augustine wrote his famous words, he was not indicating that Christ-followers should be united with heresy. Unbiblical teaching should not be tolerated and should be exposed. The liberty in nonessentials does not include teaching unbiblical doctrines.
Unity – the common ground for love
Christ-followers are to love one another. This love can only come as a result of a conscious desire to be unified under Jesus Christ. If Christ-followers were viewed as lovers of one another who are united in word and deed, then the testimony of God would be intensified. It becomes very hard for the world to ignore Jesus when His brothers and sisters exercise unity and love toward one another – regardless of denominational banners.