Sunday, September 9, 2012

John Wesley's "Catholic Spirit" - Dealing With Christians With Whom We Disagree

“‘Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?’ Jehonadab answered, ‘It is.’ Jehu said, ‘If it is, give me your hand.’ So he gave him his hand.” (2 Kings 10:15)

When dealing with Christians with whom we disagree, the founder of Methodism John Wesley had some helpful advice in one of his sermons on this very subject. Titled “Catholic Spirit,” it had nothing to do with the Roman Catholic tradition, but everything to do with how followers of Jesus are called to treat those who differ from them but who share the same “universal” (or “catholic”) spirit of love in their work in the world on behalf of Christ. Let me share a few quotes from that sermon:

“Although a difference of opinion or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”

“How shall we choose among so much variety [of worship styles]? No [one] can choose for or prescribe to another, but every one must follow the dictates of [their] own conscience in simplicity and godly sincerity. [They] must be fully persuaded in [their] own mind, and then act according to the best light [they] have.”

“Is your heart right with God?...then give me your hand.”

“While [one] is steadily fixed in [their] religious principles, in what [one] believes to be the truth as it is in Jesus, while [they] firmly adhere to that worship of God which [one] judges to be most acceptable in [God's] sight, and while... united by the tenderest and closest ties to one particular congregation, [one's] heart is enlarged toward all [humanity], those [one] knows and those...[whom one knows] not.”

Wesley is also remembered for something he said regarding the nature and character of all true Methodist Christians, “As to opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think (From Wesley’s tract “The Character of A Methodist”).

His point (and my point today) is that we don’t all have to agree on every piece of theology or scripture in order to work together for and on behalf of the cause of Christ in our world. So, my prayer for you (and for myself) is that God would give us each a truly “catholic spirit” in all we say and do, that we may give glory to God our heavenly Father by the very way that we conduct ourselves with Christians (and even non-believers) with whom we disagree. Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

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