Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
By 1743 the “Methodist” movement within the Church of England was taking off and growing considerably. John Wesley was suddenly responsible for checking in with the numerous societies he had helped to establish in order to continually encourage them in their faith and love. On one such occasion (in February of 1743) Wesley traveled to Newcastle to check on a particular society and was dismayed to discover a lax of discipline within the group.
Though harsh by our modern standards, Wesley examined every member of the society and found it necessary to expel 64 people from the group for the following offenses: “2 for cursing and swearing, 2 for habitual Sabbath-breaking, 17 for drunkenness, 2 for retailing spirituous liquors, 3 for quarreling and brawling, 1 for beating his wife, 3 for habitual and willful lying, 4 for railing and evil speaking, 1 for idleness and laziness, and 29 for lightness and carelessness” (Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists, 138). The offenses were so grave that Wesley believed it was detrimental for the whole if these offenders remained.
Within the week Wesley wrote what we now know as the General Rules. The terms of membership were simple: “a desire to flee the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins.” But in order to continue in the society, members were required to live out their faith by, “First, By doing no harm, … Second, By doing good, … Thirdly, By attending all the ordinances of God.” (ibid.) These General Rules became foundational for the Methodist movement that eventually led to the creation of the contemporary United Methodist Church.
Paul wrote to the church in Rome a similarly simple list about what it means to be in Christ: “let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” These principles of Christian discipleship are like the compass of our faith, guiding us to new and continual life in Christ. Wesley truly believed in renewing the Church of England by creating a standard by which the Christians could dedicate their lives. Faith, for him, was serious and worth working hard for. Today we are responsible for renewing our faith through discipleship and our commitment to love God and neighbor.
How do you live out your faith? Has following Jesus become boiled down to showing up for church once a week? Do you follow any guidelines or responsibilities for discipled-living on a daily basis?
Perhaps today we are all being called to a life of dedicated and disciplined faithfulness by simply letting our love be genuine, hating what is evil, and holding fast to what is good.