There is a question that many have posed;
“Should you do something just because you are able to?”
That question is appropriate to ask for scientists when conducting experiments and proposing new processes to the world. Just because we can replicate DNA and make a clone, should we? Just because we can prolong life beyond the body’s abilities, should we? Just because we can create a nuclear weapon, should we? You see, this simple question has dramatic and far reaching implications for individuals and society as a whole.
In many ways, the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, was quite the pragmatist and I would say, genius. Wesley was practical in his applications for how small groups should be formed, about personal responsibility and accountability. He was an organizational genius, applying his ideas to the Methodist societies he founded. Wesley developed ways and methods for his followers to apply to their daily living. One of his most quoted sets of rules, are what are referred to as simple rules. They give a framework within which to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God.
So here goes:
1. Do no harm.
2. Do good.
3. Stay in love with God.
That’s it! If we follow those 3 simple rules, our lives, and the lives of those around us will be lived out in a pleasing way to God. They are simple in their construct, easy to remember, and in many ways, easy to follow.
If the first and foremost thing we do is to do no harm. How much misery could we avoid? This same rule is the first rule for physicians as well, do no harm. In treating disease or illness, the first thing the physician must seek to do is not harm the patient. Never make the cure worse than the disease! For us, if we simply sought to do no harm, what kind of impact would that have? In daily living, do no harm would mean we don’t say or do things that are meant to intentionally hurt someone. Before we speak, before we act, we ask ourselves if what we are about to say or do would harm another person. The answer we arrive at it would dictate how we proceed. My momma always told me, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. That’s a pretty good word, don’t you think?
The second rule after we have devised not to do any harm is, do good. As we begin to act, we should ask ourselves if our actions will result in good being done. How I act in the world should be a reflection of the good I would like to see achieved. By good, I mean good for all, not just good for myself or others who are like me. In general, will my actions result in as much good as possible for everyone?
The third rule is to stay in love with God. This might sound simple and easy on its reading, but is it? Staying in love with God encompasses being who God truly created you to be. God created us out of love, for love. So our actions and words should exemplify that kind of love. If we are going to stay in love with God, we are going to love our neighbors just as much. For in our neighbors rests the same image of God that rests in us. Staying in love with God would mean I would attend to the ordinances of God: Attending worship regularly, engaging in daily prayer, doing acts of kindness and charity, giving of my first fruits in a glad and generous way. All of these things indicate we are staying in love with God.
Now that we understand Wesley’s three simple rules, let’s look at what has occurred this week. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has indicated he is lifting the statewide mandate on wearing masks and opening all places 100%. These are things which are in his purview to do. He has the ability to do them, but should he? I won’t argue the fine points of economics or politics, I’m just simply asking should we all stop wearing our masks, stop social distancing, start gathering in large groups?
The medical community is still advising it is too early to let our guard down. Even those who have been vaccinated should continue to wear their masks and practice social distancing. As has been noted, the most dangerous part of air travel is the takeoff and the landing. These are optimal times for something to go wrong and for the plane to crash. The same could be said for treating this pandemic. The beginning was dangerous because we didn’t have enough information to adequately address the risks. Now, as we approach a time where we can see a possible end in sight, we are getting antsy and wanting to let our guard down. This could give the virus a huge boost and enable another deadly wave of infection and death.
We are first and foremost, called to do no harm. Wearing a mask is inconvenient, but does it help me to do no harm? You bet it does. Continuing to social distance, is it getting old and wearing on my psyche, that would be an overwhelming YES! But does my social distancing keep me from doing any harm to my neighbor, certainly. With the Spring weather am I ready to engage with large groups of people? Absolutely. Is it safe and prudent to do so? No its not, it has the potential to do great harm.
Friends, I know we are all tired and worn out from the protocols we’ve had to deal with for a year now. I know we want life to return to normal. I know we want to gather with our friends in corporate worship. It is not safe yet to do so. If we follow Wesley’s three simple rules, we have to conclude we must stay the course until it is truly safe for everyone.
I love each of you dearly. I miss you more than I can express in words. I want so badly to hug you tightly and kiss your neck to tell you how special you are to me. But, I will do no harm, I will do good, and I will stay in love with God. In doing so, I will keep you safe from all hurt, harm and danger. Our God is watching over us even now. We are truly around the corner from a time where we will once again be able to love on each other in person.
Love and Peace,