One of the things I love about being a Methodist is how simple a very complex faith can be. “Being a Christian isn’t complicated, but it is hard.” John Wesley (a co-founder of the Methodist faith) knew how difficult this simple faith could be. To help people understand, Wesley came up with three simple rules that I am going to explore over the next three weeks.
This week, we have “Do No Harm.” This sounds easy enough on the surface, in fact I thought it might be the only rule I would have any chance at being somewhat successful; however, when you begin looking at what this really means, it becomes more complex. Within this first rule, there are three sub-categories I want to explore.
- Do no harm to yourself.
- What if we took this seriously? What if we woke up in the morning and said to ourselves: I will do no harm to myself today? I will not eat or drink things that are unhealthy for me today. I will not put myself in situations that are so stressful as to be unhealthy for me today. I will not be so busy today that I do not take care of my physical, mental, and spiritual health. I will not participate passively in relationships that are harmful to me today. I will not allow myself to be demeaned today. I will not allow myself to be objectified or to be negatively categorized today. I will not have my freedoms taken away today. I will not be treated unjustly today.
- What if you and I woke up tomorrow morning and began our day by making a pledge: I will do no harm to myself today. I will not willingly participate in anything that causes harm to me today. How might that change our lives?
2. Do no harm to others.
- What if we took this seriously? What if we got up in the morning and said to ourselves: I will do no harm to others today.
- John Wesley’s examples aren’t only about avoiding harming others personally; they are also about not participating in systems that harm others. John Wesley was against gin drinking. He himself drank ale and wine and published home brewing tips and campaigned for real ale. But he thought the use of gin and hard liquor was destructive. He not only taught that Methodists themselves shouldn’t drink gin, but he taught that Methodists should not buy or sell gin because he believed participating in the hard liquor industry harmed others.
- John Wesley believed participating in businesses that charged high interest rates, what he called usury, caused harm to others. Later Methodists added participating in slaveholding and slave trading since the industry caused harm to others.
- What would it mean to wake up in the morning and say: I will not participate in systems today that cause harm to others? How might it change the things we buy? The work we do? The way we travel? The way we spend our spare time?
3. Do no harm to God.
- John Wesley believed that we can do things that harm God. God, we believe, is the author of justice, inclusion, and beauty. God loves justice, inclusion, and beauty.
- Think about doing no harm to God’s creation. To harm God’s creation harms God.
- I don’t know if it is possible to live in America and to do no harm to creation. I suspect for most of us it is possible to become much more aware of the harm we do. And to do less harm.
- What if we got up tomorrow morning, and at the very beginning of our day, we said First, I will do no harm today? I will not passively participate in systems that harm others. I will not harm God or God’s creation today. God, let me do no harm today.
My challenge to us all this week is that we begin thinking about this simple rule in our daily routines, do no harm. Think about how we won’t harm ourselves, others or God. Really be aware of how we cause harm and tell God, I don’t want to do harm. When we earnestly pray to God to help us, He is faithful to provide, beyond what we can imagine.