Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Do Good: Preview for Sunday, February 8

This Sunday, we will consider the second of Wesley's General Rules: do good. This is part of a study based on Reuben Job's contemporary adaptation of Wesley's Rules called Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living. It seems that it would be a no-brainer that Christians are to be doing good, but it seems that there are a lot of other things competing for our time and attention these days. It seems that doing good is overshadowed by doing what is right sometimes. What I mean is that some Christians are so consumed by being on the "right" side of an issue, that any thought of doing good is drowned out. We readily respond to people in a harsh or mean way and think that is showing how serious we are about defending God's way. Sometimes doing good is characterized as liberal or humanistic as opposed to spiritual. But it is following the way of Jesus.
In his journal, Wesley said: "There is scarce any possible way of doing good, for which there 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."
In other words, there are abundant opportunities everywhere we look, at all times. The issues are how do we choose what to do, and will we take the opportunities available to us.
In Acts 10.38, Peter is preaching about Jesus and characterizes Jesus this way: "...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good...". This Scripture makes it clear that it is godly and spiritual to do good, and it is following Jesus, since doing good characterized his life.
3 John 11 tells us "...Whoever does good is from God..." Think about the implications of that for a minute. [Pause here and think.] If you do good, you are from God. If you don't do good, it doesn't matter how much you SAY you are from God, you are not. It seems to me that, in the Scriptures, we see a lot more emphasis on right action than we do on right belief or right doctrine. I think that is because the point is to LIVE what we say we believe (that sounds like a definition of doing good), and not just TALK about it. Jesus taught us to pray for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. The point is for people to act and live and treat each other the way God wills for them to do.
Reuben Job tells us that this rule is even more radical than "do no harm", because I am called now not to just not hurt those with whom I disagree, or who are my enemies, but I am called to positively and actively to do good to them. This reminds me of the words of Jesus in Luke 6.27-28: “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. That is the kicker: we don't get to choose to whom we do good. It is for everyone. I don't get to judge who is worthy of receiving the good I do. This rule is universal. It is also universal in that all people are called to participate in it.
Also, when I decide to do good, it means I do not wait to be asked. I am actively--proactively--seeking to do good for the people I encounter and in the situations I find myself.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Rule One Summary: Do No Harm

The first of Wesley's general rules is DO NO HARM. Look at Wednesday's preview blog for more info.

Lets look at Genesis to see our situation. We are broken/fallen/alienated from God, from each other, from the creation, and from ourselves. And these are all the areas in which we need God's redemption; God's salvation. We must consider each of these areas and strive to do nor harm in each of them.

Consider these Scriptures and what they say about how we should live; how we should do no harm.

Matthew 5.21-26
Matthew 5.38-48
Ephesians 4.17-32
Romans 12.17-21
Romans 13.8-14

How does this work? How can it work? This rule is very broad. How can you do know harm? In fact it is so broad and wide-ranging that we can be overwhelmed by it. We can be discouraged by the enormity, and the difficulty, and the ambiguous nature of the task.

Where do we start?

A-You must start with a decision, a commitment: I am going to follow the way of Jesus. I am going to surrender my life to God.

B-You must practice regular times of examination.

C-You must listen to the Spirit.

D-You must sensitize yourself to the Spirit through reading the Word.

E-You must make room for the Spirit with silence and reflection.

F-You must ask forgiveness for harm you have done, and make amends where you can.

G-But you must start now to stop digging yourself into a deeper hole.

The issue is finding a way to listen to the Spirit's guidance in how to do no harm. Regular times of reflection and self-examination will facilitate hearing God's guidance.

Here are some tools that can help you:

A-Ignatian Examen


C-Spending time in reflection and silence [link to contemplatio program]

D-Regular reading of Scripture
Pray slowly through the phrases of the Scriptures and documents below. Allow time for the Spirit to bring thoughts to your mind as you pray
. The Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Beattitudes or on the Examination handout above.
E-The Lord's Prayer

F-The Ten Commandments

G-The Beattitudes

H-Baptismal covenant
I-covenant prayer

Spend time this week in reflection. Make an appointment and use one of the methods above for self-examination. What is God leading you to change? How is God impressing you to do no harm?