Besides the personalized nudges God gives us at specific moments, there are non-negotiables that apply to us all equally and always. God expects us all to trust him enough to let him lead, and he expects us to obey his directives with or without getting an explanation from him.
As we use the "Life Verses" or the Daily Bible Reading List for Life Season, it is always good to be looking for the non-negotiables, the things God is telling us to obey. And when we do not know all the reasons, it is best to give God the benefit of the doubt.
Otherwise we may repeat that first sin of Adam and Eve. They were given a command, told what the penalty would be for breaking it, but not told everything about the rationale for it. Under those circumstances, they doubted the goodness of God's motives for the command, and they chose not to obey it. Let's learn from history--obey God first and ask questions later.
However, God does expect us to use the brains he gave us. That's why it is so important to SYNC (see ourselves in Christ). If we see ourselves properly, we won't have to be taught a lot of other things. They will be obvious.
For example, if we see ourselves as life-bringers, channels of the water of life, we won't gossip. Gossip never brings life. It cuts people down. It is out of SYNC with our self-understanding.
Bottom line: being in SYNC with Christ is the one non-negotiable above all the others. We have zero tolerance for anything that gets us out of SYNC with him.
FAQs on non-negotiables and obedience
1. 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.
2. 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. We can try to get out of his control, but 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.
3. 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. 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.
4. 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 divide sharply over how to answer it. The entire history of writing 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.