Non-negotiables
Basics to live by

Besides the personalized nudges God gives us, there are non-negotiables that apply to all members of God's campaign team all the time. We can think of the personal nudges or assignments as e-mails to individuals, while these non-negotiables are found in the "campaign manual," the Bible.

For example, the manual tells us the whole story of the campaign--what it's about, how it got this far, how to join it, what we are doing in it now, where we get the power to do it, and how the whole campaign will turn out. None of that is negotiable. We aren't reinventing the campaign story, spinning it, or making suggestions for improvements. 

Besides telling us the story, the manual has some specific instructions that apply to every campaign team member. For example, team members must honor Jesus as the director of the whole campaign, and they must not do anything in a way that brings shame on him or the campaign in general. We don't need any personal e-mail instructions about obvious basics like that. We are expected to learn them from the manual and stick to them. 

But the key to playing well on the campaign team is not a list of non-negotiables. It is the one main non-negotiable, seeing ourselves in Christ. If you SYNC (See Yourself iN Christ), you won't have to be taught a lot of other things. They will be obvious. 


For example, if we see ourselves as trailers for the movie about the coming world of peace, we can't be hard to get along with or full of anxiety. Being difficult and being anxious are way out of SYNC with the coming world that we are here to represent. If we don't get that, we missed the main part of the idea of Vision Season.

FAQs


How is the whole Bible the story of God's campaign?

Isn't the Bible too long and complicated to handle?

What if a non-negotiable in the Bible doesn't look right to me?

Don't non-negotiables mean bigotry?

Don't God's non-negotiables kill human freedom?

Isn't the Bible behind the times?

Is everything in the Bible non-negotiable?

FAQs on non-negotiables and obedience

1. How is the whole Bible the story of God's campaign?

The Bible is basically one long story--the story of the world from start to finish. Here is one way we could put a "Table of Contents" onto it to show how the whole thing is the story of God's campaign:

Genesis 1-11, What is wrong; why a campaign for change is needed

Genesis 12-Malachi 4, Phase 1, the campaign before the Director arrives in person

Matthew 1-John 21, Phase 2, Jesus, the Director, on the campaign trail
Acts 1-Revelation 16, Phase 3, The Spirit of Jesus guides and empowers the campaign team

Revelation 17-22, Victory, how things look after the campaign changes everything

2. Isn't the Bible too long and complicated? How do we get through all the fine print?

The Bible is thousands of pages, but don't think of it as one of those word piles on the Internet that you have to "read" and click I AGREE to before you are allowed to go any further.

 

The Bible is actually more like the story behind a movie than it is like an insurance contract, a company policy manual, or a textbook. About 60% of the Bible is narrative, telling what has happened during many centuries of God's campaign. Another 20-30% is poetry. That leaves only 10-20% for rules, teachings, and explanations.

Remember that you are not trying to pass a test on the Bible. You are trying to play on God's campaign team. To get off to a good start, get a clear picture of the campaign as a whole. You can do that in two minutes by reading any of the seven "Who Are We?" stories. It's not that complicated.

And God does not expect instant perfection from new players on his team. He does expect them to know what the campaign is about and to go along with as much of it as they understand so far. And he expects them to grow. If they ever think they already know as much of the manual as they need to know, they are out of step with the campaign.

3. What if a non-negotiable doesn't make sense or doesn't seem right?

There is a sad story about this right at the beginning of the Bible.


God gave the first man and woman a command, told them the penalty for breaking it, but did not tell them everything about his rationale for it. Under those circumstances, they fell for the lie that the rule was his selfish attempt to shut them out of one of his privileges. They broke that rule, showing they trusted themselves more than God. That broke the original connection that humanity had with God. And that's why God had to launch his campaign to re-connect, heal, and bless the world.

 

With hindsight, we should not be overly tempted to repeat their mistake. If God tells us to do something but does not explain it fully, wisdom means giving him the benefit of the doubt. He masterminded the campaign. He brought us into it even though we weren't fit for the team at the time. Let's trust him to run it.

4. Don't non-negotiables mean bigotry? Isn't it better to be open-minded? 

 
One of the great myths of our century is that tolerant people have no absolute rules. They absolutely do. For example, "Thou shalt not tolerate racism," or, "Thou shalt not allow a wealthy, powerful man to extort sexual favors from staff members."
 
Self-styled "tolerant" people consider those commands to be non-negotiable, absolute, universal. No excuses of personal background. No cultures where these might be OK. Always and everywhere, those things are wrong and unacceptable. Passing judgment on them and harshly enforcing your judgment makes you an exemplary person, not a judgmental one. Thus say the tolerant people.
5. If we emphasize obedience and give God total control of our lives, doesn't that kill human freedom?
 
We lived in Colorado for a while, and I learned one thing about skiing. When beginning skiers get out of control going down a slope, they never shout, "I'm free! I'm free!" On the ski slopes, control and freedom are partners not enemies. Because the veteran skiers know how to control their skis, they are free to enjoy the challenge and the spectacular scenery of the double black diamond ski runs (the most dangerous ones).
Same with God. The more we are under his control, the freer we get. His control is liberating. If we get out of his control, that isn't "freedom." It's an out-of-control crash and a "free" ticket off the ski slopes, hauled off on a sled by the ski patrol.
6. If we treat things in the Bible as non-negotiable, won't we be hopelessly behind the times? What about all the changes between then and now? 
Archeologists have not yet proved or disproved the theory that the cave man's club was actually invented by a cave woman whose husband cheated on her. The theory posits that, noting the new tool's effectiveness, male friends of the victim later adapted it for hunting. 
Some things don't change. Hunting weapons do, as does all technology. Humans not so much. The biblical non-negotiables deal with the human unchangeables.
 
In fact, the non-negotiables may well turn out to be the wave of the future, exactly what we need to prevent destructive abuse of our new technological capacity. The jaw-dropping advances in technology are neutral in themselves, but that means their potential for harm is equal to their potential for good. If we ask, "Which person or group would want to use these advances to harm others, and why?" we are right back in the wheelhouse of the biblical non-negotiables.
 
7. How do we know which things in the Bible rise to the level of non-negotiables? Is everything non-negotiable?
 
Very good question, and people who take the Bible seriously divide over how to answer it. The entire history of theological creeds illustrates that. Without saying the SYNC approach is the best one, let us put it forward for consideration alongside whatever other views may already be familiar to you.
SYNC answers this question with the seven versions of they "Who Are We?" (W.A.W.) story. Non-negotiables are the things that make the story go the way it goes. For example, if Jesus is not the center of the story, the whole story falls apart. His centrality is non-negotiable. Or again, if people do not trust God enough to obey him even when he hasn't given them a full explanation, the story loses one of its main points. It becomes a different story. 
 
Of course, this is not a precise answer to the question, but that is intentional. The emphasis in SYNC is not on pinpointing how many non-negotiables there are in the Bible. It is on SYNCing with the God of the Bible as we know him through the panoramic story of the Bible (the "W.A.W. story") and through the nudges of his Spirit today. We just keep obeying whichever non-negotiables God highlights for us at any particular time. That is plenty to keep us busy without figuring out all the theory behind everything.