We live in undeniably polarizing times. We often know more of what people oppose than what they support. This polarization has entered the church as Christians often divide into various ideological camps. Perhaps the most surprising division hasn’t come from convictional differences but from methodological ones. Rather than disagreeing on biblical principles, we’ve found ourselves disagreeing on pragmatic solutions. Whereas once we divided solely on biblical convictions, anymore we divide when Christians don’t share our passion for secondary issues. We mistake disagreement over specific solutions as a lack of biblical conviction. We denounce one another simply due to differences of opinion rather than the gospel itself.
Scripture approaches secondary issues in light of what matters most – the full message of the gospel. Throughout the pages of Scripture, the good news of Jesus Christ is of utmost importance. The biblical authors focus less on differences of opinion on secondary issues in favor of keeping the main thing the main thing. For Christians, the gospel and getting the gospel right is primary to everything else. While there is a proper place for biblically applying gospel implications to practical life, the applications of the gospel are always secondary to the primacy of the gospel itself.
This truth is fleshed out in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 through Paul’s clearest articulation of the gospel. Before succinctly describing the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul describes the gospel proper as “foremost”, or quite literally “the most important”. Nothing is more important than the death and resurrection of Jesus. The biblical message of salvation not only saves sinful man, but also changes hardened hearts. If we get the gospel wrong, moral solutions will never produce lasting, godly change. Accurate, biblical articulation of the gospel’s primacy motivates all expressions of biblical faithfulness. The moment we assume the gospel, we lose the gospel.
When Christians elevate perceived applications of the gospel to the same level as the gospel itself, Christian unity and biblical faithfulness are inevitably lost. When we vilify believers who don’t share our level of passion for secondary issues, we’ve lost sight of what’s foremost in life. Christians who differ in solutions don’t necessarily differ in convictions. Christians who don’t share the same level of passion concerning secondary issues are not the enemy. In Christ, we have freedom of conscience to consider varying opinions of responding to social ills and cultural issues. But these opinions must fall secondarily under the primacy of the gospel. If we unify in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we can mutually work together for the glory of Christ.
Christians will inevitably have different opinions and levels of passion, but we must joyfully unite in the gospel. Though we live in polarizing and tribalistic times, may Paul’s commitment to the gospel be our sole aspiration for the glory of God – “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).