Non-Negotiable

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Non-negotiable. I sometimes use that word with my kids. There are things in life which I consider non-negotiable. A specific time to be somewhere. A test coming up. Homework assignments, a session or show to prepare for, a deadline, something which can’t be ignored, or rationalized, or passed off, except to our detriment. I tell my son, “This is non-negotiable.” That means no argument, reasoning, or emotional display will change the happening.

In reading steadily through the New Testament these past few weeks, I’ve come up against many non-negotiables. Faith in Christ. Holiness. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Legalism, the idea that we can be holy by human effort rather than by faith-reliance on Christ within us, is something to be carefully avoided; a close trust relationship with God as Father is to be consciously and faithfully cultivated.

There’s a lot of black-and-white in the Word of God; it’s a book of divine Facts that, if we really grab hold of them in faith, will transform not only our understandings, but our attitudes and actions.

These things are to be held to as incontrovertible facts because of the ultimate non-negotiables: the judgment seat of Christ, of which Paul speaks, and the great white throne judgment written of in Revelation.

Interpretations aside, the Word states plainly that judgment is coming, both for believers and unbelievers. Those whose names are written in the Book of Life through faith in Jesus Christ will have the quality of their life’s work determined by the only human in history qualified to always give a righteous judgment – the God-Man Jesus Christ.

For believers who began in the Spirit by faith and then continued in faith, building Christ upon Christ, there will be reward. Believers who began by having Christ laid as a foundation and then built with the works of their hands, well, those will suffer loss, escaping into heaven’s glories as refugees escaping through the flames – whether by legalism or license will be beside the point. …he that overcomes, and keeps My works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations. The fruit of the Spirit is just that – fruit that comes from the Spirit, not from human effort. His works through us.

Unbelievers will face the reality of the Johannine description of standing before the great white throne, clothed not in Christ but in the works of their own hands, and judged by those good and bad works. The trouble is that God doesn’t grade on a curve; their works will be found wanting, the book of Life will be checked for their names, and then one of the most dread-full and horrific things recorded in the Bible happens to them.

What strikes me most about Revelation is the total non-negotiability of it. Just as there are times with my kids where I don’t take their opinion into account, so God does with us. And just like my kids, I don’t always like my Father’s non-negotiables. But there they are. I can rationalize. I can ignore. I can pass them off. But they’re still going to happen, no matter what I choose to do with that fact.

That’s one of the main things I love about the Word. It goes against the flesh-grain, stirs me up with uncomfortable thoughts that break me out of complacency, world-think and world-sleep; the Word forces me to face Reality.

A non-negotiable just is. Tax Day. The day our electric bill is due. The date of our concert, or our book deadline. The day our children leave home – prepared for life in the world, or not. The judgment seat of Christ. The great white throne judgment. A non-negotiable says, “Here’s the fact, Jack. Deal with it or it will deal with you.”

We can go with these non-negotiables, order our choices by them and be prepared when they hit. Or we can rationalize, compartmentalize, and be unprepared. In that case we’ll have to endure the consequences; where a non-negotiable meets the Now, choice is no longer an option.

Righteousness flows by aligning ourselves with these Facts in God’s Word. That’s faith.

Profile photo of Ron Block

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


13 Comments

  1. S.D. Smith

    Thanks, Ron. What you say is true, and so badly needs to be said in a generation which increasingly celebrates and embraces doubt over faith, our own personal stories over the constancy of God. We must escape from our generation’s self-centered, casual and reckless approach to the infinite, all-powerful God.

    He is not mocked, he is not the host of Let’s Make a Deal. He is not the God of accommodation, who fits neatly into our pockets so that we might carry him around as a good-luck charm wherever we go. He reigns. We must come to him as he is, not as we wish, or imagine, or hope he will be. We have no righteousness to add to his work. We have no shrinking machine to fit him into our view of the world. Christ calls for disciples, people who get behind him and follow. The beautiful thing is that this is the doorway to Joy, to glories our little worldview could not have imagined. Pleasures forevermore.

  2. Kevin

    Yeah buddy. Don’t know ya, but I like ya already.

    I’ve been giving quite a bit of mental effort to the study or the Revelation, and though I now know more what I don’t believe than what I do, there a few inescapable things that smacked me right in the kisser.

    #1 God is absolutely, totally, undeniably in complete charge, and there is no rival.

    #2 It’s really all about Christ anyway.

    #3 To your point: there is no middle ground, no waiting to see who’s winning in the ninth before you decide which team to pull for. Black and white, Christ or the beast.

    But how can folks accept the non-negotiability of a thing, when they don’t believe that there is such a thing as an objective thing? Post-modernity is such a strange thing, since there is such a thing as a thing.

  3. Stacy Grubb

    My dad was a big fan of the word non-negotiable, as well. Monarchy. It was so unfair.

    Now, I’ve found that I’ve used that word more than once on my own son and I’m glad that someone much older and wiser than him has full control in this house because he’d get himself killed if I let his opinion matter in many situations. I reckon that’s what my dad once thought about me. There’s a strange comfort in the non-negotiables. Everybody requires stability if they’re going to have peace of mind and that’s exactly what non-negotiables give us. No matter what, A, B, and C will remain true. Death is non-negotiable, but so is everlasting life. So is eternal Salvation.

    From John 10:

    25Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

    26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

    27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

    28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

    29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

    I am His, and that is non-negotiable. No one else can have me. Non-negotiables are solid enough to stand on. Our children need that and we as God’s children need that, as well.

    Thanks, Ron. This post put into my mind a lyric my dad wrote around the Scripture that I quoted, which is what led me to look up the passage and it’s been a nice journey for me today.

    Stacy

  4. Tony Heringer

    Kevin,

    You reminded me of a funny picture I saw in a youth devotional book writtent by Ken Boa. Its is just two stick figure faces that are meant to represent modernism and post-modernism. I’ll see if I can recreate it here:

    Modernism Post-modernism
    🙁 🙂
    Life sucks! Like sucks!

    That was a big hit with the dudes in my small group — but we are easily amused. 🙂

    Apart from Christ we really don’t know which way is up. The spirit of this age tells us everything is negotiable.

    Having “non-negotiables” is what I’d call integrity. That word at it’s root (integer) tells us to be whole is to be holy. Psalm 15 is a passage I use to remind me of “non-negotiables.” I especially like how it concludes: “He who does these things will never be shaken.”

  5. Tony Heringer

    Well, the formatting didn’t quite work. Let me try that again:

    Modernism 🙂

    Life sucks!

    Post-modernism 🙂

    Life sucks!

    Sorry to repeat a bad joke twice, but I wanted to get it right at least once and hopefully not mess it up twice. 🙂

  6. becky

    Stacy, I really like what you wrote here. I like that you took this negative sounding term and put a positive spin on it. I like the idea of my security in Christ being non-negotiable. That there is no use even starting an argument about it, cause you won’t get anywhere. Just accept it, period.

  7. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    I gave my kids a non-negotiable the other day – they’d been getting more and more hard to deal with, because boundaries were getting fuzzy. Respect was getting fuzzy. Every parental “no” was turning into a freakout and debate.

    So I laid it down. I told them that from now on I wanted instant obedience (because delayed obedience, as a friend recently told me, is disobedience). I said I wanted them to pay attention the moment I was talking to them, rather than ignoring. And I told them they would be using “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am” with any adults. And the last thing was that there would be no second chances; disobedience or freaking out or arguing the point would result in instant consequences (which I clearly delineated). After saying all that I told them I loved them and was doing this because I was looking out for them, looking out for their future, so that they would learn to treat their wife/husband, boss, and other relationships with care and kindness.

    The result? Not just kids who are behaving better. The real benefit is kids who are happier. They are genuinely glad to have someone else in charge, to have someone redraw the boundaries. Kids who are allowed to act like jerks grow up feeling like selfish jerks, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    There is a contentment in knowing that some things are just as they are, and meant to be, and that there is no changing them or going around them.

  8. paul h

    Thanks Ron, I love Revelations.
    I went through the 6 months or so with Dr. David Jerimiah on the series, “Escape the Coming Night” a few years ago and it changed the way I look at this book. I look at it in urgency and acuteness.
    One point that alot of people over look, as I did for a long time, is a non-negotiatable. It is the first sentence: “This is a Revelation of Jesus Christ”. To look at the word in these “glasses” makes a world of difference.

  9. Tony Heringer

    Ron,

    The best parenting advice we’ve received over the years is imbedded in this phrase “After saying all that I told them I loved them and was doing this because I was looking out for them, looking out for their future, so that they would learn to treat their wife/husband, boss, and other relationships with care and kindness.”

    The advice was simple: “make your children a blessing to others” and by God’s grace, that has been the case with our kids. I say this based on the unsolicited feedback I receive from other adults and sometimes feedback I overhear from their peers. I’d love to say we were brilliant parents, but much like Bill Cosby’s parenting routine in the hilarious film “Himself” I know that’s not the case. It is our Lord answering the prayers of two parents just trying to figure it out.

    Travis and Abby are teens now, so there is a little different style to our parenting these days. The non-negotiables are still there. In fact it is more important than ever to make sure they are heard loud and clear—teens seem to suffer from memory and hearing loss…often. There are actually physical/body chemistry reasons for this phenomenon which when mixed with a fallen nature is a potent brew to be sure. I’d don’t have the same “command and control” style I might have used when they were younger. It’s not as effective nor would I want it to be.

    This is a time when my wife and I want to see them assert who they really are as people. It is hard, because that involves letting the fail in some situations where we are letting them make a lot more choices for themselves. They are having to own up to them more and more and the stakes are getting raised on them.

    Another aspect is my wife and I not being happy with the type or style of the choice. Being able to grant them respect in some of these areas is tough (dress, freinds, music, etc.), but I think necessary in order for them to discover who they are and we pray, who they are in Christ.

    I’d concur with James Dobson, that the teen years are like a white water ride. Not necessarily because of what they are doing or how they are behaving (though we’ve had some teenage meltdowns here) but what they face in culture that is post-modern. I feel for both of my teens and their peers.

    The culture they face everyday is very confusing. However, it does make the Gospel so much easier to present because the contrast is so stark. No matter what, the love of Jesus is still that best non-negotiable I can ever offer my kids or anyone else for that matter. I think Barliman wrote a song about that 🙂

    1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

  10. Stacy Grubb

    When I was younger, my dad never once issued reprimand or discipline without having a long, laborious talk about what we did and why that leads to him having to do what he has to do. The talk was usually the most torturous part of it all because I really felt shamed by his disappointment, although I know he didn’t *want* to make me feel that way. He just wanted me to understand why I was in trouble. The shame came with the territory. When all was said and done, he always asked us to hug his head so that he knew we still loved him. The fact that he still wanted to hug ME was such a comfort after knowing how disappointed he’d been in my actions. I asked him a few years ago why he wanted us to hug his head and he told me it was because he could hear our “little hearts” beating when we did it that way.

    I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my day. I’ve said and done a lot of things that I regret because I know they broke my Father’s heart. But He’s never failed to take me back in, forgive me, and keep on loving me.

    Ron, looking back, I’m so glad that my parents were there to save me from myself. I think most people who had parents with rules share that sentiment. It makes it that much easier for me to sometimes be the bad guy to my son when I know the long term gain will be priceless to his future. I don’t want to the parent of “that kid” that nobody can stand to be around, including his own peers. And in homes with more than one child (I have 3 siblings), the rules also serve to save you from the others haha. One of my sisters is fairly close to me in age and she and I had a monster of a time getting along from childhood all throughout our teenage years. If my parents had turned a blind eye on their children’s behavior, I have no doubt that my sister would’ve killed me, or at least made me wish that I was dead haha.

    I think that we’ve all encountered other people that make us sit back and appreciate our parents’ old non-negotiables more and more. The balance is knowing that it’s only a blessing when the rules are implemented and enforced from a place of love. Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

    Stacy

  11. Caroline

    Excellent post.

    Some parenting thoughts (from the object, not the subject POV):
    My dad was another one who focused on the idea of “non-negotiable” — essentially, anything he or my mom asked me (or any of siblings to do) whether homework or a chore, would be done. Any request/command was automatically non-negotiable! Another phrase he used was “first-time obedience” which goes along the same line. There was never much debate over the idea “is cleaning my room optional?” but rather, my siblings and I knew that disobedience would be result in serious consequences.

    I was blessed to have a relatively non-tumultuous adolescence — and this was helped by my parents’ openness in letting me explore my interests, even when they found them mystifying (a.k.a. Harry Potter and historical clothing, to name only two…). As long as I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I could read what I wanted, listen to what I wanted, etc. They trusted my judgment, and I feared retribution enough to avoid profanity-laden music and vulgar literature. When I look at other families who were much stricter, especially in the realm of forbidding fantasy literature outright (except, of course, the Chronicles of Narnia), I am reminded how wonderful it truly is to have parents who entrusted me with the freedom of choice.

    Of course, I didn’t spend my teenage years living like a nun, saying the Our Father while endlessly praising my parents. But I am very grateful for the combination of discipline and liberty that I enjoyed in my home. I’d rather have a strict father who loves me unconditionally a thousand times over having a father who lets me do anything I please — which is not real love.

  12. Tony Heringer

    Caroline,

    Thanks for your post. Those are encouraging words for us parents in the thick of it. God blessed you with two loving parents and you have just honored them tremendously by your words here.

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