Summary: The first in a sermon series around John Wesley's "General Rules for the People Called Methodist." An exploration of Christ's command to "love your neighbor as yourself."
Do any of you have a guilty indulgence? If you’re like me, you probably have more than one. And one of those guilty pleasures for me is Krispy Kreme donuts. In my book, there’s nothing quite so good as a warm, sugar-glazed Krispy Kreme donut. Ken would say that the cake donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts are better, and you might feel the same, but for me, it’s Krispy Kreme all the way. In any case, donuts are pretty good, especially the chocolate glazed ones, right? The only saving grace for me is that, though there is a Krispy Kreme near my home, there is not one on my normal commute because it sure is hard for me to drive by a Krispy Kreme without stopping, especially when the “Hot Now” sign is flashing out front!
Yep, I could buy a dozen “Hot Now” Krispy Kreme donuts and put them away in no time flat, without giving it much thought. But have you ever done something like that; eaten a whole box of Krispy Kreme donuts in one sitting? How does it make you feel? At first it’s really good, right? You eat that first donut, and all that sugary goodness just melts in your mouth. That’s probably the case with the second and third donut, too. So by the time you down all twelve of those donuts, you should be feeling great, right? But is that really how it works? What really happens is that you get less and less enjoyment out of every donut. So by the time you get to the end of the box you’re in no way full or satisfied, and in fact, your tummy hurts. And then you start filling guilty because eating all those donuts was a really bad thing to do on all sorts of levels. Before too long, you come to the complete a full realization that something that once seemed so good, was really quite harmful and bad.
Throughout this month, we are going to be studying John Wesley’s “General Rules” for the people called Methodist. Wesley taught that Christians and Methodists should continually show evidence of their desire of salvation in three ways: “By doing no harm, by doing good, and by attending upon the ordinances of God (or staying in love with God as we say in more modern English).” Now these three rules aren’t the whole story about what it means to be a follower of Christ, but they do give us a foothold to help us understand what Christian discipleship is all about. So today, we are going to focus on what it means to “do no harm” as a Christian. Because, as that box of donuts reminds us, even when something seems good, it could very well be doing harm to us, or to others.
One of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God wants us all to experience “the good life,” a life lived in God’s presence and committed to God’s purposes. And one thing John Wesley wants us to be aware of is that anything that we might do that is steering ourselves or others away from experiencing “God’s good life” is actually doing harm. And that's where Paul's letter to the Romans and the passages we heard this morning come into play. This whole passage is about how Christians deal with the wider world, and the right response says Paul is not cursing, but blessing.