Our series on the Wesleyan Revival concludes this Sunday, October 11. Even with five sermons, there’s a lot about John Wesley that is going to end up on “the cutting room floor”. For example, the General Rules. There were three agenda items when the early Methodists gathered in those small groups we call class meetings: (1) Ask and answer the question, “How is it with your soul?”, (2) Give money for the relief of the poor, and (3) Hold each other accountable to keeping the General Rules. So . . . what are these General Rules?
First, do no harm. In other words, live your life in such a way that you don’t make things worse than they were before! We may not feel particularly powerful, but the truth is we are capable of doing tremendous harm, deliberately or innocently. We can hurt people. We can damage God’s creation. We can reinforce negativity. We can encourage hateful attitudes toward others. John Wesley tells us to stop! Think before you speak. Think before you act. Do no harm.
Second, do good. The first rule has to do with what we don’t do. This one is about what we do do. It’s not enough to not make things worse. As Christians, we are expected to make things better. And again, we have much more power than we may think! God gives us opportunities all the time to make this world a better place. It might be something simple. Just saying something nice to someone who hasn’t heard anything very nice in a while. It might be something bigger. Leading an effort to address some wrong or injustice in our community. John Wesley tells us to not let a day pass without doing good.
Third, attend upon the ordinances of God. This one may not be as clear. Reuben Job, who wrote a book about the General Rules, rephrased this one as “stay in love with God”. There are things we can do to draw closer to God and to grow in God’s love. This is the “sanctification” we talked about yesterday. Wesley offers us several examples: attend worship, receive communion, pray, read your Bible, fasting, abstinence, small groups, giving to God’s work. The idea here is to discipline ourselves to make our relationship with God our first priority, not an afterthought.
So, now you know the General Rules. It’s an important part of our heritage to know. But it’s much more important that we take this knowledge and do something with it. Here’s my challenge to you (and to me) for this day (and every day): Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.