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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Three Simple Rules

Three Simple Rules



If you even walk into a Methodist church you will discover that most Methodists are a bunch of “do gooders”.  John Wesley and his brother Charles really founded the Methodist Church in England in the 18th Century and from the start it was a “do good” movement.  Wesley preached on street corners while emphasizing that Christians should give to the poor, visit the sick and live humbly.


And John Wesley passed down his Three Simple Rules for living and Methodists often quote these rules and try to live by them.  Here they are:  Three Simple Rules  1) Do no harm.  2) Do good of every possible sort.  3) Stay in love with God.  Just three simple rules!  Sounds easy to follow, doesn’t it?


The first rule “Do no harm” sounds easy. But watch out! The temptation to harm others is ever near.  You can harm another persons’ reputation by gossiping about them or passing on rumors.  Or hurt a persons’ feelings by not treating them with respect.  And it’s so easy to dislike a person and harm them just with your attitude. 


Of course you can do great harm by bearing false witness against another or stealing from them. And then there is murder and adultery!  There is a sentence in  the Lords’ Prayer that begs God to help us resist temptation and evil.  “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  (Matt.6:13a)  Not only should we try to do no harm but we should try to stop others from doing harm if we can. We can not follow rule number one “Do no harm” without Gods’ help.


The second rule is “Do good of every possible sort.  ” First of all, in order to do good one needs to slow down.  Slow down and live life in the present.  If you rush through life, people will be invisible to you – you will be blind to their needs.  The story goes that for forty years a woman named Grace ministered to street people in her city and made a big difference in the quality of their lives.  And when she was asked what her secret was in being able to change so many lives, she replied that the secret was that she “walked slowly.”


In order to do good a person also has to care.  If we don’t really care about another person in need then we will walk on by and look the other way.  One of the seven deadly sins is the sin of sloth or apathy – the sin of not caring enough to do what we can do if we have the opportunity to right a wrong.


 Many years ago (1964) newspapers all over the United States printed a sad and disturbing story about a young woman in New York named Kitty Genovese who was murdered by a man with a knife. This knife attack took place in the yard outside of an apartment complex with thirty apartment windows overlooking the crime area.  And it took forty-five minutes for the attacker to slowly kill the young woman with his knife as many folks watched. 


As the attacker stabbed Kitty again and again she screamed and ran crying out for help while many watched from the safety of their apartment windows. She rushed frantically from door to door knocking and begging for someone – anyone - to open and let her inside to safety. But for forty-five minutes the crazed man chased this girl stabbing her again and again as groups watched from their apartment windows.


Not one of the many onlookers bothered to get involved.  Not one person opened their door to save the desperate girl from her attacker.  Were they afraid they might be hurt as well? Not one of those watching even took the time to call the police.  Finally after time passed and she had been stabbed more than fifty times, Kitty dropped on the cold pavement covered in blood and died alone while people all around her watched.  


For months after Kitty’s murder there were angry outcries and questions by the public and by newscasters asking how this could have happened in America!  How could a group of bystanders watch for 45 minutes and do nothing while a girl in their midst was being murdered.  Were these people human?


 We all believe that we are safer when we are surrounded by a group.  Since most of the people we know are caring folk, we assume that this general goodwill would cause persons in a group to try to help a person in trouble.  And most of the time that is what happens.  Nearly always good people are nearby to lend a hand when a person is in trouble. That is why the public was so shocked when they heard Kitty’s story.     


But I believe that the folks who watched from their windows as Kitty died didn’t care enough to risk their own comfort.  And not caring (Sloth) is considered to be one of the “Seven Deadly Sins”.  One of the definitions of sloth is “the inability or unwillingness to act or care.”   The Seven Deadly Sins are: 1) Pride,   2) Greed,  3) Lust,  4) Anger,  5) Gluttony,  6) Envy,  7) Sloth.  Actually there is no formal list of the “seven deadly sins” in the Bible.  But these seven sins are denounced everywhere in Scripture.  Pope Gregory (540-604 A.D.) put the list together for Christians back in the sixty century. We can pray and ask God to give us a caring heart.   


In order to do good a person needs to have confidence in God.  Loving God is the bedrock of doing good.  God is the source of love and when a person turns from God and chooses evil ways, the flow of love into that persons’ life could become unsteady.


And that brings us to rule number three: “Stay in love with God.”  Without staying in love with God we cannot follow the first two rules. Without God in the picture we can sometimes throw up our hands and give up on a person.  But what seems impossible with us is always possible with God.  God can open our eyes and show us that He can restore the person that has gone down a wrong path.  And God can give us the vision and strength to keep loving those who in our own strength we find hard to love.


When Jesus was on earth the Pharisees asked Him which commandment was the most important one in the Law.  And Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Mathew 22:37-39)


So Jesus is saying that the most important thing that we can do in our life is to love God, the God who loves us and gave Himself for us.  The God who created us and redeems us.  The God who is there for us, answers our prayers, watches over us, leads us and guides us.  The God who waits for us to come back to Him.  If we try to obey Rule number 3 the others will fall into place.  


It’s easy to become lukewarm in our love for God.  To follow Him from a distance.  But Scripture says that God is disappointed with “lukewarm” love.  He wants us to love Him with everything we’ve got.  Let’s do it.  Let’s stay in love with God.    

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