3 Rules

3 Rules

By Sammy Waters

John Wesley’s General Rules

When I took my first Methodism class in seminary, learning about the life of John Wesley made me feel like a complete failure. Before his preaching days, he made time every week to minister to those in jail, visit the sick and dying, be with the poor, feed the hungry, and meet with his friends, all while praying for like 15 hours a day (okay maybe that last part is a slight exaggeration). I simply could not live up to this life. Thankfully, I was pointed toward something more doable: the 3 General Rules. “Rules” may sound strict and exacting, but it is meant to be more of a guide in making decisions that honor God and others.

Do no harm by avoiding evil of every kind. This is perhaps the most simple. Don’t harm my neighbor by voting for policies that put them at risk. Don’t gossip about my friends. Don’t buy clothes made with slave labor. Don’t flip off the jerk in traffic. Don’t be curt with the cashier taking too long to ring up my groceries.
Do good in all ways to all people. If we didn’t harm one another, we’d be alright, but we wouldn’t thrive. By doing good, we enable flourishing to happen. When we volunteer at Owenwood, bring dinner to a sick friend, or invite our widowed neighbor to Thanksgiving, we make the world a little bit better. But this rule isn’t just outwardly facing. Wesley also believed that we should “do good” to ourselves by living simple and loving lives. This could mean taking time to honor a Sabbath day and rest, taking our medicines, and fueling up with foods that do good for our bodies.

Finally, Wesley instructed us to attend to the ordinances of God. This sounds the most antiquated, but it means doing the things that keep us in a relationship with our Creator. Some examples include participating in worship, reading the Bible, receiving communion, and praying. It is easier to follow the first two rules when we stay connected to God.
When I looked at the life of John Wesley, I felt like I was looking at a massive checklist of things I could never accomplish. I felt rushed to do more. The 3 General Rules ask all of us to do the opposite. They are meant to slow us down in a world that moves so quickly so that we can act with intention in all we do. And for that, I am grateful.
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