Friday, September 20
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33) We love because he ﬁrst loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:19-21)
Where coercion exists, there is injustice. As followers of Jesus, attempting to see the creation through the eyes of God and working to bring God’s shalom to all, injustice is intolerable. It is signiﬁcant that in our baptismal vows, before we “confess Jesus Christ as Savior” and “promise to serve him” as Lord, we make another vow. “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? I do.”
Whether found in the world or in the church, injustice shatters people’s shalom. Too often our response to coercion is silence and compliance because we fear retaliation from those in power. If anyone understands how those in power use coercion, it is Jesus. Both the Jewish religious leaders and the Gentile Roman authorities attempted to use physical and psychological coercion against him. They pressured, ostracized, and derided him. When he did not comply, they arrested, beat, and killed him.
Shockingly, Christ maintained his shalom with God, even to the point of asking God to forgive those who cruciﬁed him. While few of us, if any, can achieve that level of inner peace, we try to let his example inspire how we respond to injustice and the coercion that maintains it. Our call to address injustice and coercion has a name in our Wesleyan heritage: social holiness.
John Wesley wrote, “The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. Faith working by love, is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection.” When Wesley says that holiness is social, he means that the depth of our love for God is revealed by the way we love those whom God loves. In a culture that viewed poverty as an indicator of the worth of the person, Wesley preached God’s love for all and oﬀered to love those of his neighbors who were culturally disenfranchised.
Wesley served the poor and expected the Methodist groups he oversaw to have a weekly oﬀering for the poor in their community. He raised money to purchase food, medicine, fuel, and tools for those who could not aﬀord them. While raising large amounts of money for the poor, he never took more than 28 pounds a year, the same salary he received at his ﬁrst church as a priest. Wesley organized societies for the unemployed; argued for fair prices and respectable wages; and established a loan fund to enable the poor to begin new businesses. He founded free clinics and established the ﬁrst free medical dispensary. Under his leadership, Methodists established schools to educate the children of the poor families.
Wesley called all Christians to ﬁnd practical ways to love God and neighbor. He expected God’s people to be a part of what the Spirit is doing in the world. Social holiness recognizes that where there is injustice, there is not peace. In order to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves, we must seek justice for all people.
• How familiar are you with John Wesley and the history of our denomination?
• What are the signature ministries of our congregation? How many of them reﬂect Wesley’s emphasis on social holiness?
• What are some practical ways you have shown love to your “neighbor” in the past year?
• How has love been shown to you?