The List of Faith Essentials Is Short, a List of Only One Item
Two thousand years ago the religious leaders, called Pharisees, heap a bunch of manmade requirements on the backs of the people so they can be right with God.
Some scholars place the number at over 22,000 regulations, far more than the 613 items the Law of Moses contains, which far exceeds God’s top ten instructions (aka The Ten Commandments).
While today’s religious leaders have numerically fewer requirements for their followers, they, too, heap a pile of expectations upon us: of things we shouldn’t do and things we should, of hoops to jump through to be accepted into their group (their church).
They spout requirements for us to meet, a checklist of tasks to complete—or behaviors to avoid. We need to agree to their specific theological mindset, and if we question just one item they hold sacrosanct, we’re booted as a miscreant, likely on our way to hell.
Branded as a heretic, we’re banished from their community.
They call their requirements, the essentials. These so called faith essentials sometimes carry a prooftext, but more so than not they are no more than traditions, conventions, and preferred practices, with an elevated status for us to adhere to.
Some enlightened pastors advise to hold a short list of essentials. They have the right idea.
Jesus has this in mind when he says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). The essentials of Jesus are simple. He creates no undue burden for us, much unlike the Pharisees of his day—or the Pharisees of our day.
But how short should this list of essentials be? Ten items, perhaps five or six? Can we boil it down to three?
How about one?
Yes, there is one faith essential. Jesus says so.
What is this one thing that matters most? It’s Jesus.
At the house of Martha and Mary, Martha is worried about many things (in a practical sense, her list of essentials), while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to him. She focuses on one thing, and Jesus affirms her for that (Luke 10:39-42).
This one thing isn’t baptism. It’s not saying a certain prayer or joining a church. It’s not witnessing or tithing. It’s not going to church on Sunday or taking communion. It’s not reading a certain version of the Bible or being filled with the Holy Spirit. And it’s not going through a class or completing a spiritual rite of passage.
Jesus is the one thing, the one faith essential.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.