Saturday, February 25, 2012

Actions as Evidence of Faith

(The following is a devotional I wrote for our recent Staff Retreat at the Foundation, and, as is my habit, I share it here with you.)

Those Methodists … they don’t have any real beliefs.  If you are Methodist, you can believe anything you want.

From Ken Carder’s book, “Living our beliefs…”

However, although Wesley and the Methodists “were fully committed to the principles of religious toleration and theological diversity, they were equally confident that there is a ‘marrow’ of Christian truth than can be identified and that must be conserved.” (p25)  What do you believe – those deep, marrow beliefs – that there is a God, that he is alive in the world.  That he cares about us – loves us – all of us -- beyond our imagination. 

The Methodist emphasis upon “practical divinity” or holy living, therefore, recognizes the integral relationship between beliefs and behavior, faith and works.  It is not a diminishing of the importance of beliefs; rather, it is a declaration of the importance of beliefs in shaping who we are and our relationship with God and the world. (p27)  If we really believe what we say we believe, that it has to make a difference in what we do.

Sometimes we want these hard and fast statements of faith, so that we can say, “I am right, and you are wrong.”  That’s too easy.  The United Methodist Faith is more complicated than that.  Wesley’s Methodism doesn’t just say, “I believe…”  It says, “I believe, and my beliefs will change my actions.”

It is easier to say, “I am right and you are wrong” than it is to say, “I love God.  God loves you and me.  In order to love God, I must love you, and that love will change who I am and what I do.”

Wesley wrote, “What then is the mark?  Who is a Methodist, according to you own account?”  I answer: A Methodist is one who has “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;” one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength.  God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee!  My God and my all!  Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”

Believing that our faith is lived out in our lives, Wesley developed a way to live – the General Rules.  The process had two steps – trying to live out the rules, and then, because if we attempt to do it alone, we will fail, living out the rules in a group whose members would help each other.

Our work in the Foundation is ministry.  We’ve known that all along.  We work as a team.  We’ve known that all along, too.  Jeff has asked us to examine what we do in the light of the three simple rules, and I imagine we are all finding that our faith in God has impacted our living of the mission of the Foundation, and that as a team, we are better able to fulfill our calling to this ministry.

And when we do that, we find that God is there, meeting us at the center of what we believe and what we are doing.

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