Tuesday, May 06, 2008

three simple rules

i read a book this afternoon (short little book - 77 pages), and just wanted to reflect on it a moment. its called three simple rules: a wesleyan way of living and is by rueben p. job. the title is a reference to john wesley's three rules for living:
1. do no harm (avoiding evil of every kind)
2. do all the good you can to everyone you can
3. stay in love with God (by keeping the ordinances of God).

in a bit simpler fashion they are:
1. do no harm,
2. do good, and
3. stay in love with God.

while these are simple and easily understandable rules for living, they are, of course, deep wells of practice and much harder to live than to understand. however, i found this little book really helpful for shaping the daily walk of a disciple in the midst of an increasingly complex world.

if i could abide by the rule "do no harm," i would first have to understand myself and others as truly beloved children of God that i do not need to control. i would then be disarmed and equipped. i would be disarmed of the weapons of control and manipulation and would instead be equipped with the tools of listening and understanding.

if i could abide by the rule "do good," i would first have to understand my life as a gift to be given to others, not as an entitled commodity to be protected and served. then i could open up my tight fists and give to others rather than cling to self. it would require an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity.

if i could abide by the rule "stay in love with God," i would first have to commit to a practice of spiritual disciplines (what wesley meant by ordinances) that would keep me in touch with God. then my prayer, bible study, worship, communion with others, and ministry would be open channels of relationship between my loving Abba and me: ways to stay in love.

forget abiding, if i could just organize my life around trying to live this way, i think i would see some radically different results. i want to live this way. i really do.

grace and peace,
greg.

6 comments:

Pete S said...

But are you able to actually live that way?

This is the kernel of the issue that drove me out of Wesley's world into the arms of Martin Luther: Is entire sanctification really possible? And if it is, why aren't more people entirely sanctified? Sure, I'd love to stay in love with God by doing what God says to do, but I don't--not 100% of the time, anyway. And God doesn't grade on a curve, particularly if I trust in the things I do to please him.

I'm left with a lot of questions, really (probably not surprising):

Does anyone really "improve" over time by practice?

Is discipleship about "getting better" at pleasing God by the works that I do?

Is it even possible to do any of these? Even after years of practice?

Forgive me for this and any future ranting I may participate in (because you can almost count on that)--Wesleyanism was not kind to me.

greg. said...

yeah, man. i understand all those struggles. it seems to stem from wesleyan's emphasis on holiness and sanctification, with an added doctrine of Christian perfection to top it all off.

i am the chief of sinners. just want to be clear about that. the absolute chief.

but i believe that the whole sanctification thing is a journey - a movement that has more (for me) to with attitude (heart) than action.

when that is the case, the doctrine of sanctification is a comfort to me: if i am struggling perpetually with a particularly destructive behavior, i can either cling to hope that i can journey out of that pattern, or i can live in despair that there is no way for me to move past it.

i guess the issue when it comes to the three simple rules is this: i don't know if i can live that way or not, but i KNOW THAT I CANNOT IF I DO NOT TRY. it is the 'trying' that is the journey of sanctification. and there is joy in that journey.

ps. when sanctification is used as a means to inflict guilt on others, Jesus is not honored, the Kingdom of God is not grown, and healing needs to take place. the doctrine should be a tool of discipleship, not a weapon of evangelistic guilt.

you feel me?

monica said...

hey boys,
i wont try to enter into theological discussions as i am the only non seminarian here, though surely living in my family has had some kind of trickle down effect of theological education. :) when i read your post greg, the first think i thought of were Hule's 3 rules for whenever we went on youth group trips. do you remember them? pop quiz.
love god, love others, love yourself. i cant tell you how many times i have referenced those and how i remember hule saying that really if we do the first, then the other two will happen. i cant comment too much on lutheran vs weslyan, though learning about theosis (orthodox christianity's journey of sanctification) has opened my eyes to the necessity and beauty of faith practices. depending on your church that means different actual modes of prayer, worship and contemplation, but these practices are aptly named in that we dont perfect them, we practice them. we do them again and again and again, knowing that we will fall on our face every day in some way, but that these practices open windows for us to receive grace for the journey. and that is the word we can all agree on, right? journey. not one of us has arrived, not even luther or wesley would have said they had arrived, we are pilgrims together, walking, stumbling, getting up again moving forward towards Christ. im thankful for the chance to reconnect with amazing men like you guys and see Gods grace in your lives.

monica said...

hey boys,
i wont try to enter into theological discussions as i am the only non seminarian here, though surely living in my family has had some kind of trickle down effect of theological education. :) when i read your post greg, the first think i thought of were Hule's 3 rules for whenever we went on youth group trips. do you remember them? pop quiz.
love god, love others, love yourself. i cant tell you how many times i have referenced those and how i remember hule saying that really if we do the first, then the other two will happen. i cant comment too much on lutheran vs weslyan, though learning about theosis (orthodox christianity's journey of sanctification) has opened my eyes to the necessity and beauty of faith practices. depending on your church that means different actual modes of prayer, worship and contemplation, but these practices are aptly named in that we dont perfect them, we practice them. we do them again and again and again, knowing that we will fall on our face every day in some way, but that these practices open windows for us to receive grace for the journey. and that is the word we can all agree on, right? journey. not one of us has arrived, not even luther or wesley would have said they had arrived, we are pilgrims together, walking, stumbling, getting up again moving forward towards Christ. im thankful for the chance to reconnect with amazing men like you guys and see Gods grace in your lives.

pete s said...

I do hear what you're saying, and I think I get it. Perhaps the extremes in this case (Holiness perfectionism being the one I'm retreating from) are much of the problem. I'm trying to guard against part of this, perhaps by overcorrecting:

"if i am struggling perpetually with a particularly destructive behavior, i can either cling to hope that i can journey out of that pattern, or i can live in despair that there is no way for me to move past it."

The question I came to after years and years and years of struggling with destructive behaviors, running down to the altar in repentance, and walking right back into those behaviors, is this:

Where is my hope?

Is my hope in the possibility that I will one day not walk back into that behavior? Is my hope in the possibility that one day my faith will finally "stick" enough, and that I'll finally be pleasing to God? Is my hope in the possibility that through spiritual disciplines I will receive grace? Is my hope in the possibility that one day I will be 51% more holy than the 49% of me that is degenerate?

No. My hope--my only hope--is in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I am simultaneously a sinner and yet saved--not 50/50, but 100/100. As Brennan Manning once put it, I am "an angel with an enormous capacity for beer." I am utterly dependant on God's grace, not on anything I can do. Which is good, in the end, because I am even at my best a pretty colossal failure at doing good.

(There is nothing like theosis in Luther, Monica--we are all beggars before God, whether we are monks, bishops, garbage collectors or stockbrokers.)

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