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Written by Pastor Karl   
Monday, 15 April 2013

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”               Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)

The sign in American Sign Language for “Methodist” is also the sign for “diligent,” “eager,” “earnest,” “enthusiastic” and “zealous.” Do these adjectives also represent how we follow Jesus’ commands in Matthew 22 to love the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves?  In considering how to answer this question, let us call to mind John Wesley’s great 1742 tract, “The Character of a Methodist,” from which the following paragraphs are excerpted:
    “Who then is a Methodist? One who has the love of God in his heart, who loves God entirely. One who finds in God the joy of his heart, the desire of his soul. He is happy in God, rejoicing evermore in Jesus Christ and the redemption which is now his. And why not? He has had his sins blotted out, the Spirit bears witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. And in everything he gives thanks, having learned to be content in whatever estate he finds himself. And he ‘prays without ceasing.’ He is not always on his knees nor always in the house of prayer, but he always lifts his heart to God---and this is the essence of prayer.
    And the Methodist who loves God, loves his brother also. And he loves his enemies (and if it not be in his power to do good to them who hate him, yet he ceases not to pray for them – even if they use him in dastardly ways). For the Methodist is pure in heart. He has no desires for revenge, envy, malice and wrath. He is not contentious. He has no love for the things of the world. All his desire is unto God. Indeed, his one purpose in life is to do the will of God. ‘All that is in the soul is holiness to the Lord.’
    He loves God so he obeys the commandments of God. Not just some, but all of them. ‘For his obedience is in proportion to his love, the source from whence it flows. And therefore loving God with all his heart, he serves him with all his strength, holy acceptable to God.’ ‘By consequence, whatsoever he doth, it is all to the glory of God.’ He not only aims at this, he attains it. This (glorifying God) is the one business of his life. The vice of the world cannot tempt him to stumble. He thinks and speaks of those things which are pure, lovely, and of good report.
    Lastly, as he has time, he ‘does good unto all men’ – unto neighbors, and strangers, friends and enemies. Not only by ‘feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those that are sick or in prison,’ but much more does he labour to do good to their souls as of the ability which God giveth; to awaken those that sleep in death . . ., so they may ‘all come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’
    These are the principles and practices of our sect; these are the marks of a true Methodist.”

Praying without ceasing, loving our brothers and sisters – and our enemies, loving God and obeying the commandments of God, and doing good unto all men are not just words of advice that come to us from an 18th century Oxford preacher named John Wesley, but commands that come to us from God’s Holy Scripture.  Following these commands and ensuring that our lives emulate the life described in Wesley’s “The Character of a Methodist” will lead us to diligently, eagerly, earnestly, enthusiastically and zealously following the teachings of Jesus Christ to love our Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And the sign for “Methodist” in American Sign Language will indeed be fitting and proper!                                                                                Karl Grant

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