I called an audible this week. An audible is when the quarterback looks over the field and changes the offensive play based upon what he sees in the defense while standing at the line of scrimmage. I have had a few questions about the benediction that I often use. I want to share with you regarding this simple benediction rather than the sermon I had thought that I would prepare for today.
“Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.” These sayings or rules were popularized by Rueben Job in his 2007 book entitled, Three
Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living. The rules summarize and paraphrase the rules by what John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, lived. This is my take on the rules with a nod to Rueben Job. Please pray with me.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We begin with Jesus and with John Wesley. Jesus lived to fulfill all righteousness. At the beginning of January, we celebrated the baptism of
Jesus as we remembered our own baptism. Jesus submitted himself for baptism by John the Baptizer. Jesus sought something different then repentance. Jesus sought what you and I seek if we want our life to count for the cause of Christ. Jesus sought to fulfill all righteousness.
In response the John the Baptizers refusal to baptize Jesus, Jesus says, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. A couple of chapters later, Matthew records another such reference from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”
For Jesus the issue was living right before God. Fulfilling all righteousness is to live right with God. When the conversion is not the issue
when we have addressed the basic issue of faith and have put our trust in God, then Jesus calls us to live as God would have us live. How is that?
How are we to live rightly before God? It “ain’t” rocket science. To hear it, it sounds easy. To do it, takes a lifetime. We find the key to life and to living with others and God in Micah 6:8. “What is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
John Wesley understood these basic tenets of living before God. He worked with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. He developed
another way of saying to what Micah points and what Jesus did. He gave three simple statements that became known as the Wesleyan Way. It is the Way, you, and I as United Methodist Christians, are called to live our lives.
The three simple rules are: do no harm, do good and stay in Love with God.
John Wesley writes, “To continue on the way of salvation, that is living in harmony with God, we should begin by doing no harm...”
How much simpler can the purist form of our faith be put? It is simple enough that a young child learning to read may read and understand it. Yet, it is still difficult to do.
Dr. Cheryle Seljan, School City of Gary, Professor of Education Goshen College, states that “a child as early as kindergarten may have all the preschool knowledge and all the talent and all the ability but if they do not understand that stealing harms others and themselves, they have lost their life before living it. It is my job to train them to understand. The First Rule of Education Should Be: "Do No Harm".”
Shaun Kerry, M.D., Diplomat, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, “This is an idea that we know of through the Hippocratic Oath
that medical professionals swear to uphold.”
"As to diseases, make a habit of two things— to help, or at least do no harm." --- Hippocrates, The Epidemics Reuben P. Job writes, “To do no harm means that I will be on guard so that all of my actions and even my silence will not add injury to another of God’s children or to any part of God’s creation.”
Do no harm leads to disarming. If the intention is not to harm, then defenses come down.
In families, this looks like being the non-anxious presence. In the culture, this looks like the Do No Harm Project. “The Do No Harm Project
seeks to identify the ways in which international humanitarian and/or development assistance given in conflict settings may be provided so that, rather than exacerbating and worsening the conflict, it helps local people disengage from fighting and develop systems for settling the problems which prompt conflict within their societies.”
Easy for us to say. So hard for us to do.
John, in his third letter says this (3 John 11b), “Whoever does good is from God.”
John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
“Do good” is a simple command. It is so simple that the youngest reader may understand and follow the command. It is a proactive universal way of living. Doing good is more than personal effort. Doing good may also be a business effort. New companies are sprouting up that do good as the core value of their business. Consider Good Society.org. Good Society is a loosely connected organic movement driving global change. The core value of this movement is the belief that in all things we must love, will, and do good. The Good Society label takes fashion beyond useless and often destructive pretense by presenting an affordably priced, forward-thinking collection that is fully sustainable – both ecologically and socially.
John Wesley reflected, “There is scarce any possible way of doing good, for which here is not daily occasion… here are poor families to be
relieved; here are children to be educated; here are workhouses, wherein both young and old gladly receive the word of exhortation; here are the prisons, and therein a complication of all human wants.”
Even the Apostle Paul knows that goodness is at the heart of our faith, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another … outdo one another in showing honor… Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” Romans 12:9-10, 13
Again, so simple and easy for us to say. So challenging to do.
John Wesley said it like this, “Attend to the Ordinances of God.” Doing good and doing no harm are good moral teachings. Without a relationship to God, they lack the grounding to be sustainable; they lack the power to be transformative. Doing good and doing no harm become transformative and sustainable when rooted in love of God.
Jesus teaches the core of biblical faith is love for God. Matthew 2237ff, ““Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself.' The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments."”
Let us use Peter as a case study. Peter the Disciple started with no love of Jesus. Jesus gave Simon the fisherman the name of “Peter.”
“Peter” we think means “rock” but could easily have meant “pebble.”
Simon the fisherman was a pebble before he was a rock. Remember Jesus called Peter out and told him, “Get behind me Satan.” This came after Peter pronounced Jesus’ identity as the Christ of God, the Messiah. The trouble with Peter’s Messiah is that it was radically different then Jesus’ Messiah.
Peter wanted a political leader, a reformer, a military revolutionary. Peter wanted someone to drain the swamp and kill the alligators. Jesus’ Messiah was not so short sighted. Jesus’ Messiah was offering a better way for the redemption of creation. So, Jesus looks a Peter the pebble and says, “Get out of my way. You do not have God’s purpose in your heart.” Peter’s intention of doing no harm and doing good were misguided at the least.
Peter the pebble was not just a disciple. Peter was a betrayer. When people were looking for someone to testify on Jesus’ behave the night Jesus was arrested, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. His lack of testimony put Jesus on the cross. Yet, Peter the Redeemed loves Jesus. John 22:18ff, “Peter, do you love me.” “Yes, Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Following Peter’s redemption, Peter became the rock upon which God built the church. Peter began his missionary work at home and abroad. Peter’s home base moved from Capernaum to Antioch. He preached and taught in cities from Iraq to England. Peter died in Rome at the hands of Nero. The disciple to establish more churches and to preach more sermons was the Apostle Paul. Like Peter, you’re doing good and doing no harm become transformative and sustainable as you stay in love with God.
Staying in love with God, doing the things that keep us in love with God, transform our efforts of doing no harm and doing good. Easy for us to acknowledge. Hard for us to do.
Doing good and doing no harm become transformative and sustainable when rooted in love of God. Doing good and doing no harm are good moral teachings. Without a relationship to God, they lack the grounding to be sustainable; they lack the power to be transformative.
The question from the life and times of Peter is the question that God has for you and me today. “----, do you love me?”
If you love the Lord, then stay in love with him. Paul writes, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
So, I remind myself and you of these simply profound rules that guide our way through our life and faith in Jesus. Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.