I once drove from Grand Forks to St. Cloud in the middle of the night in a blizzard without any headlights. Not smart, but true. When I pulled in my driveway at 4:00 a.m., it took me several seconds to pry my hands off the steering wheel. I literally experienced “white-knuckle” driving on that foolish night.
“White knuckles” happen when you grip something very hard. There are certain truths that Calvary holds with white-knuckles. Ironically, you have ten knuckles and Calvary has 10 such truths in our Statement of Faith. If you can’t remember all 10, they can be aptly summarized in four.
- The Bible is God’s Word; inspired, protected in transmission, infallible.
- Jesus Christ is God, not sorta-God, not a God, but Immanuel – God with us.
- Salvation is a free gift received through unconditional trust in Jesus – you can’t earn a gift.
- Spiritual growth is fueled by the Spirit of God, not by mere human effort.
Unlike what happened in my driveway, Calvary’s hands cannot be peeled away from our grip on these bedrock truths. John Chrysotom, a 2nd Century church leader, stated it this way; “In the essentials, unity.” These truths have been the essentials for 2,000 years. And on these truths we stand together with white knuckle grip.
But we also have open hands as a church family and as individuals in the church family. Open hands mean that in other areas many Christians and churches fight over, we have determined ahead of time to be a church family that agrees to disagree in an agreeable way. In Calvary’s Statement of Faith, you won’t find many of the doctrines other churches hold with “white knuckles.” Frankly, on most of these other doctrines, the Bible is not clear. God and godly people throughout the centuries have sought out God’s intention for us in these areas and have come up with different conclusions. Again, John Chrysotom had something to say about these less-than-bedrock issues: “In the non-essentials, charity.” While essentials should be held on to with “white knuckle” grip, non-essentials should be held in a loving, respectful, open hand. In other words, have your convictions, but hold them humbly and loosely and don’t be a jerk about them.
Churches get messed up when we mix up what should be held with “white knuckle” grip, and what should be held in an open, even trembling hand. If you read our Statement of Faith which can be found on our church website www.calvaryefc.org, note not only what it states, but also what it does not state. What it states are our “white-knuckle” essential truths. What is does not state are our open-hand non-essentials which we will not allow ourselves to divide us as we take our own individual positions on them.
It is no accident that the Evangelical Free Church of America, the denomination we joyfully partner with, has as its motto, John Chrysotom’s motto:
“In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, charity. And in all things, Jesus Christ.”
Calvary aspires to live out that motto. I welcome your insights and suggestions on how Calvary can be more effective in holding our grip on the essentials, showing charity on the non-essentials, and keeping Jesus the center of our gaze and the object of our affection at all times.