I stumbled upon a letter, over the holidays, that I wrote back in 2003. In the process of an interview for a possible position within the church, I was asked by a pastor in South Georgia to list five non-negotiables in my life. I have included the list.
- My covenant with my wife, Julie. I will not negotiate in terms that would do anything to damage the promises that I have made with her, or that she has made with me. That does not mean that situations will arise within each of our lives that require that we go back and restate what our promises were. Yet my promise to be there for her requires that I consider deeply how I am interpreting the other claims upon my life.
- My presence in the life of my son, Sam.* While not entering into a public covenant like that of wedding vows, we are in many ways more intimately connected in these years ahead because of need for guidance, protection, and instruction as he grows.
- My faith in God. I believe in, and am shaped everyday by God the Creator, that has sought me through grace to be renewed in his likeness. He extends that same love to every person.
- My passion for the church. I will not allow anything to turn aside my deep conviction that the church is a great gift to the world, and is God’s great vehicle for sharing and being the healing, transforming, and saving power that is given through Christ Jesus.
- My deep belief that all people are included in God’s grace is non-negotiable.
* - This one only lists Sam, as Jack was still two years from entering the world; Jack makes the list now, too!
I offer these as encouragement to consider what things in your life are non-negotiables. What are the boundaries for where you will go? How do the rock-solid commitments you have made influence your everyday life, your plans for the short-term, and your dreams about the distant future? I think the abundant life that Jesus talked about included such commitments and non-negotiables. His choices, made in the everyday living of life, emerged from a deep sense of knowing his place and his direction. The Gospels are filled with the difficult choices he made, and then often the reasons he offers for why he is doing one thing over the other.
At the core of my non-negotiables is my family and my faith. Many of you would have these on your list. We are going to be talking about new ways to bring the faith of the church and the heart of the family together in 2012 here at Epworth. It is a concept called Orange, and I am excited about it. May God use it to solidify the non-negotiables in the lives of all of our people and grow us for God's glory.