Three Simple Rules

John Wesley firmly believed, and so do I, that anyone who is truly saved, who has known the saving grace of God in his/her life, will live differently than the rest of the world. For Wesley, evangelical faith would be revealed in evangelical living. For those who joined his movement Wesley had “three simple rules” to guide persons in their life of discipleship. Very simply these were: 1. Do no harm, 2. Do good, 3. Love God. These rules still have value for us today and are worth considering. We need to remember some of the specific examples Wesley cited were in response to the world in which he lived. We may need to consider other examples for life in the 21st century. Over the next several weeks we will be taking a closer look at each of these rules.

First do no harm. Wesley wrote, “By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as: The taking of the name of God in vain. The profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling. Drunkenness: buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity. Slaveholding; buying or selling slaves. Fighting, quarreling, brawling, brother going to law with brother; returning evil for evil, or railing for railing; the using many words in buying or selling. The buying or selling goods that have not paid the duty. The giving or taking things on usury—i.e., unlawful interest. Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation; particularly speaking evil of magistrates or of ministers. Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us. Doing what we know is not for the glory of God, as: The putting on of gold and costly apparel. The taking such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus. The singing those songs, or reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God. Softness and needless self-indulgence. Laying up treasure upon earth. Borrowing without a probability of paying; or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them. It is expected of all who continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation…”

Consider the opening words, “by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced…” Wesley was not afraid to tell his followers, “I don’t care what the rest of the world does, we need to live differently.” His challenge is for us as well. Consider his admonition about the Sabbath. If we look at scripture, there is more said about the Sabbath than any of the other commandments and God does not speak kindly of those who violate the Sabbath. How would our lives and our world be different if we truly observed the Sabbath? Some may argue that it is not economically possible, as if profit is a higher consideration than God. Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby are two large corporations that will not open on Sunday, yet they survive. In Israel all stores are closed on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, even though the majority of the people do not identify themselves as being religious. In Kentucky (and elsewhere) there are payday lenders, who while they may be charging what has been determined to be “lawful” certainly falls under the category of usury. These lenders only charge 20% per month and our legislators go along with it. After last Tuesday’s Boyd County Fiscal Court “hearing” (and I use the term loosely) it would be easy to slip into the evil commonly practiced “returning evil for evil, or railing for railing” but we are called to a different kind of response.

Wesley addresses our private lives, too. He challenged Methodists to avoid “reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God.” Wesley was well-read and did not mean avoid reading any book other than the Bible. In today’s terms, I think he would have had a problem with the Harry Potter books, books that promote witchcraft and sorcery and a source of power other than God. Many of the video games do not point us to the knowledge or love of God. What are we letting our children and grandchildren read and play? What about “needless self-indulgence?” I do not believe
we need to live in extreme austerity or poverty, and Wesley even taught that families need to be taken care of, but the question each of us needs to consider is “Where is the line between necessity and needless self-indulgence for me?”

As I consider the events of recent years I see disturbing trends, many of which go back to “Laying up treasure on earth.” Not too long ago the business of financial planning grew. These days financial planners have been replaced by “wealth managers.” We are no longer satisfied with economic security, now we want wealth! Think about Bernie Maddoff who was willing to cheat even his friends for his personal gain and when found out tried to transfer money to his wife to avoid repaying what he had stolen. Chase Bank just paid a $410 million fine for manipulating gas prices to increase profits. That money came out of your pocket and mine. The list goes on and on.
Sometimes nothing short of law will suffice to correct a social evil quickly. Slavery is a good example of this. But even though the institution of slavery was abolished, the effects still linger today. Laws can change what is legal, but
they cannot change the hearts, minds, and souls of women and men. When we are willing to embrace and live out a life of personal and social holiness by avoiding evil of every sort, especially that which we see every day, then our families, our churches, our communities, our nation and our world will change.

~ Grace & Peace, Pastor Scot

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