Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. [NRSA: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24]
Normally we think of Christmas as a time to forget someone the rules, but 2020 has been a challenging year, and Christmas may be the best time to remember our guiding three rules.
Wesley’s core teaching about Christian living are to 1 do no harm, 2. Do all the good you can. 3. practice the disciples of spiritual growth.
Do No Harm:
- Tpically, this is a no-brainer, we don’t want our words and actions, or our silence and inaction to harm others.
- Sometime we are advocate for others when we speak up and find proactive ways to help others.
- Sometime we are to refrain from talking so that others may speak for themselves.
WE ASK IS MORE HARMFUL TO SPEAK OR BE SILENT?
- There are times that we spend, and times to save.
- There are times to be reckless in our loving, and times to cautious in waiting and watching.
WE ASK IS IT TIME TO BE INVOLVED PERSONAL OR WAIT FOR a FUTURE TIME?
- In some circumstances it is impossible to avoid harm.
- If we choose to help one person, we no longer have resources to help another.
- If we choose to be friends with people who belong to one group, we may be excluding ourselves from being intimate with another group.
- In choosing who you are going to marry and spend a lifetime together, there may be one person who is thrilled while the other is disappointed.
- Before we can actually choose, we need to qualify and name whom is being harmed.
- In matters of personal safety,
- do I hang out with people who are not a good influence in my life as my friends.
- do I hang out with people who are not a good influence because they need a good friend.
- Some times we are not strong enough to be the friend in a risky situation.
- Sometime we are not truly friends until we can share each other burdens.
- In choosing, it is important to be honest with God, ourselves, and others and for some people we say, I can’t be your friend at this time because I’m too tempted to be around you while you are behaving as you are. I can connect from time to time but I can’t be there for you at the moment. I hope one day soon that I can.
Behind this honest connection is not just an excuse to get our of being in a difficult relationship, it is stating that I need to not be tempted, confessing that I’m not strong enough to be in a risky situation, because I will make poor choices given the opportunity. This is also a confession to God, that I have a greater need for God to be guiding my life. Both persons need the benefit of friend, but it is too risking at the moment.
What is the better choice: Telling someone you know who needs a support and friend that needs your friendship or do you risk both of you missing out of what your time together could be?
There is a better answer: We are going to commit to being friends but we both needs some accountability to protect each other. This is where God works through use as mediator for others, in small groups, in support groups, in mutual counseling and many other ways.
Do you give money to someone who is hungry on the side of the street? Is it doing more harm to potentially contribute to someone’s perpetual poor choices or not give them something and hold them accountable.
- It is actually more comforting to the donor or helper than a transformation of life for the recipient. The answer to the question is both have good, but neither is a solution. If someone is hungry and asking for help at least it is easy to identify a need in our community. Many more people live meagerly and we don’t know, we don’t see it. Someone on the corner is visible. On the other hand a handful of change or fist full of Benjamins will not be enough to solve all the typical struggle that lead to someone in that situtaion.
The way to look at the choice of what is harm is to be in conversation with God about our world around us.
There are concrete times that God has said to me: This persons needs that $5 in your pocket much more than you. And other times, God has said, not now, even if you gave them $100 there are not in a place to make wise choices. The difference is who is defining the harm.
Do No Harm, is to be defined by God and the only way we know is through rule number three:
Do all the Good you can.
We like this one because it adds a qualification that the first rule does not state, but both are implied. That is that perspective that tempers what we are able to do.
Do all the Good, holds the same struggle that at times we are not sure what the good is and it become filtered by what WE say is good, or what it Good for us.
Sometimes, doing that which is good for God, is not good for us personally, at least in the moment.
- These are the times that we experience personal sacrifice.
- These are times that we learn about our relationship with God and how much we trust or question God.
- Just as a parent might choose for a child to go on an adventure they would love to experience, but they stay home so the child can know the blessing.
- Just as co-workers choose to work together for the company’s success
- As teammates struggle are personal harm to secure the win for the team, the coach, the school, the fan, parents, etc.
Just as in measuring what is Good, we are called measure Goodness by God’s standard and direction.
Good for our friends, work, political parties might be 180 degrees from God’s call upon our lives. The way we discern what is GOOD, is through practicing rule number three.
3. Practice the Disciplines of Spiritual Growth
This is where the church is at its greatest help, because even the evilest person with the evilest intentions and goals, can justify what is harmful to them and their cause, and what is good for them personally and for their efforts.
In truth, Rule #3 is the backbone and strength that make keeping Number 1 and 2 possible.
What are the ways we practice our spiritual development. What spiritual exercising build our spiritual nature.
- Prayer – Meditation
- Christian Fellowship
- Holy Communion
- Disciples Making
If you are conditioning for a sport or team:
- there are skills to practice,
- repetition of practice with regularity,
- planning and forecasting,
- eating well and resting
- celebrating and nurturing the individuals and the team.
How well would the game go if an athlete is devoted to doing one or two of these things well, how would that effect their own performance and their contribution to the collective work of the team.
This final rule is the one that will make the most different in our understanding and experience of Christmas and our Christian living: Practicing the disciplines of spiritual growth.
What do I want for Christmas VS what do I need for Christmas to be the transforming-life-changing time of my life, your life, the life of the church?
- WORK ON ALL 12
- Help encourage one another in all 12
- Don’t let each other off the hook for all 12
Practice all the tools that make us ready to do no harm and do all the good that we can. For in Christ I can do all things in Christ who gives me/us strength… be strong in the disciples, it be strong in the Lord, in the church, in the world, in our lives, in our relationship.
This is not the time just repentance, don’t just look at what’s missing, look at the missing parts and get fired up! This is time to put the spiritual sweat into the life God is calling us to live.