In essentials unity

I’ve often heard the following quoted by Christians when discussing things they are unsure about in the Bible:

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.

At first, it sounds like an excellent philosophy. But the more I think about it, it just sounds like an excuse to compromise or not to take a stand for anything. Who gets to decide what is essential and what isn’t essential? Who gets to decide what part of God’s word is essential? Didn’t God say we are to live by every word that proceeds out of his mouth? If God wants us to live by every word, then isn’t every word essential?

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