“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Romans 13:8-9, NRSV)
I like simple. Simple is streamlined. Simple is efficient. Simple is “to the point.” And simple could even be described as elegant because simple things often bear an intrinsic beauty. One thing simple is not, is easy. Simple can often be difficult.
John Wesley, in the early days of the Methodist Movement in 18th Century England, was inundated with requests for spiritual direction from those who were responding to his preaching and teaching on personal and social holiness. In 1739, he settled on a new way of instructing the Methodists as he set up societies and classes where people would gather in groups for spiritual direction, mutual accountability, and study. The only requirement for becoming a part of a society was a person had to have “a desire to flee from the wrath to come and to be saved from their sins.”
Out of the societies and classes, Wesley assumed that people would grow spiritually and there would be evidence of their salvation. This evidence or fruit came to be called “Wesley’s Three Simple Rules.” If someone were experiencing salvation that comes from God through Jesus Christ, the evidence would be that people did no harm, did good, and were faithful in keeping the spiritual disciplines of worship, learning, Holy Communion, prayer, Bible study, and fasting or abstinence. Since Wesley’s time, the church has made Wesley’s rules a little simpler. They are:
1. Do no harm.
2. Do good.
3. Stay in love with God.
We are beginning a new sermon series on Wesley’s Three Simple Rules and this week we are covering, “Do no harm.” None of us intentionally seeks to harm anyone. It’s not our intent to make anyone feel guilty or shameful for the ways our actions may harm others. Rather, we intend to identify the ways we all unknowingly harm others. Awareness is the first step toward change. It’s also important to recognize that most of the ways we unknowingly harm others emerge from our brokenness and hurt that result from the harm we have experienced in our lives. The goal of this first sermon in this series is for each of us to find release from any guilt or shame we’re experiencing and to be empowered to live more holy lives.
May God grant us grace to find peace and power as we worship together!
Rev. Dale Cohen
Senior Pastor of Canterbury United Methodist Church