This week we look at the last rule in the “Three Simple Rules” John Wesley laid out over 200 years ago. These rules are Do No Harm, Do Good & Stay In Love with God. The last rule, stay in love with God, or as John Wesley put it, “attend upon all the ordinances of God,” is by far the most important rule.
This week in Church, we looked at John 21:15-17 where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Three times Peter replied, “yes, Lord” and Jesus said, “then feed my sheep.” I thought there were two interesting points to be made about that passage with regards to staying in love with God:
- In this passage, the first interesting thing we see is how Jesus calls Peter, “Simon, son of John.” This may sound familiar to you because this is the exact phrasing Jesus used when he first called Peter to be his disciple. I think this is important because it shows how the shepherd knows his sheep individually and calls us all by name, our full name. I love to think about how powerful that would have been for Peter to be called by his full name by the Messiah, the savior who he had just watched be crucified, buried and rose again.
- The rule we are looking at today invites us to stay in love with God. I think it is important to know the other side of that, that God is so in love with us, He knows each of us by name. He knows us intimately, calls us by our full name, and wants us to stay in love with him always.
- The next interesting thing about this passage is what Jesus tells us loving him means. We have Jesus asking Peter if he loves him, Peter replies of course I do, and Jesus says then feed my sheep. Jesus was telling Peter, he was telling us, that to love him, to stay in love with him, means we must feed his sheep.
- This is a great wrap up passage from the previous two rules, do no harm and do good. You see, if we love Jesus, we will tend to his sheep, the world around us. If we love Jesus, in order to stay in love with God, we must do no harm to those around us and we must also be proactive, do good to all around us.
John Wesley was a great teacher and used wonderful pedagogy to teach us the rules. Along with the rules, he always gave detailed examples. For this final rule, some practices he suggested (that have been around since the ancient Hebrew times, over 4,000 years) are:
- The public worship of God
- The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded
- The Supper of the Lord (Holy Communion)
- Family and private prayer
- Searching the Scriptures
As I thought about these practices, I thought of how significant each one of those has been in my life. Then I also thought, there are many more times where I have been guilty of just going through the motions with these practices. As I think about what is important to “stay in love with God,” I think relationship over routines has to be remembered. I have spoken about how great the Methodist faith is in the past few weeks but one area I think we might improve upon is stressing a relationship with God before the routines.
While all of the practices The Church has are wonderful, that cannot be stated enough, they are not a substitute for loving, having a personal relationship with the God of all things who is calling us all by name.
My advise is this, participate in those practices of worshiping God publicly, reading the word, fasting, praying, communion, but don’t ever forget that a relationship, a one:one relationship with God is the most powerful experience we will ever have.
In the great words of The Beatles, “All You Need Is Love.”