Part of John Wesley’s genius, as the founder of the Methodist Movement, was the way he organized to make disciples. He established small groups everywhere he went. When these small groups met, they would go through a list of questions at each meeting. The questions were designed to guide the group members into a deeper walk with God.
Here is the fourth question:
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?
Wesley knew better than to think that spirituality, or following Jesus, was simply a matter of spending time each day in prayer and bible study. He knew that following Jesus would affect every area of our lives: including the way we dress, our choice of friends, where and how we work, and habits we hold on to.
But the wording of this question reminds us that neither is following Jesus only about shopping at different stores, befriending a different group of people, etc. The beginning of the question is as important to the disciple of Jesus as the ending: “Am I a slave…?”
In John 8:31-32 Jesus said “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Following Jesus sets us free from all matters of bondage, including things like clothing, friends, work, and habits.
Perhaps the most basic way this question challenges us to grow is in facing the truth that everyone who follows Jesus doesn’t look exactly like us. They won’t all dress the same, have the same friends, work the same jobs, or have exactly the same habits.
I’m reminded of a story told by a deeply faithful Free Methodist college Professor. His young adult daugther was in a relationship with a young man of the Dutch Reformed tradion. Unlike the Free Methodists, Dutch Reformed do not carry the same social taboos on alcohol and tobacco.
Knowing the young man to be a committed Christian nevertheless, this professor told me how he and his wife sought to reach out across such different practices. If their daughter was serious about him, they would make every effort. They invited him to join them at the symphony.
The young man graciously declined. “While I very much appreciate the invitation, I would never dream of doing such a thing on the sabbath,” he told them.
When we find ourselves enslaved to some social particulars, we might set up barriers that keep us from fellowship, and that can poorly represent our Lord.
Dress, friends, work, and habits matter. They matter deeply. But they are not lord of our lives. That place is reserved for Jesus.
One of Liam’s (my 2 year old son) favorite things to say right now is “I don’t know.”
I hope I am always willing to say this. It’s one of those things I think is a sign of maturity. Even if (especially if) you aren’t 2 anymore.
Last Saturday afternoon our doorbell rang as we were preparing to load the cars for dinner at the family reunion we hosted over the weekend.
A pest control company was in the development on behalf of one of my neighbors. The exterminator/door-to-door salesman wanted to make sure I had the opportunity while he was in the area. For only $50 he would treat my yard, too!
I politely engaged in conversation while just as politely expressing that I was not very interested. I know I turned him down at least four times. It seemed he literally would not accept “no” for an answer.
I was probably not quite as polite at the end of the conversation as I was at the beginning, but he was wearing me out. As I stepped back inside the house and started to shut the door, I heard him say, “well, aren’t you awesome!” in a clearly sarcastic tone. (I know sarcasm; having used it myself for more than 35 years now)
Here’s the deal. When I am cold-called, I start from a place of being a very hard sell. I feel I am at an extreme disadvantage. When the salesperson has too-quick an answer to EVERY ONE of my questions, it doesn’t not build trust. No, it makes me step even further back.
My takeaway. Well, first, perhaps I could have stepped back out and pursued his sarcastic suggestion of my awesomeness. That’s water under the bridge.
Second, Christians, we can glean from insight into how other might feel when we attempt to share Jesus with them. Sure, you and I know it is not just another sales call, but it is reasonable that the other person feels like we are trying to make a sale.
The faster we respond with canned answers to sincere questions, the less interested the other person is in what we have to say.
In case you are ever told to “bug off” when trying to share your faith, consider the perspective of the other person.
Next time you try to tell someone something, but dress it in “some people have told me…” or “everyone is saying…,” we know you speak only for yourself.
Own it! Your opinion is worth something. Really; everyone’s opinion is worth something,
I mean it. I’m not just bloviating generalities. Your opinion matters.
In fact, it matters more when you can actually express your opinion. When you pretend you speak on behalf of others because you think it will carry more weight. Ok, it may not carry more weight, but it will be honest, and honesty carries more weight.
I care what you think, but when you throw down the intimidation factor of trying to convince me there is a groundswell of support behind you, I am more than likely going to blow you off.
I mean all this especially in the context of church work. The church has not always been good at being honest with one another. In fact, we’ve got some pretty horrific time-honored practices of putting people in their place and keeping them there. Of silencing minorities we don’t want to hear from.
But we are Jesus’ people. We claim him as our Savior, and say we want to follow him. We believe Jesus listened to individuals; if we follow him, it is a good practice for us to develop as well.
So, from now on, if I have something to tell you, I won’t try to crowdsource it. I hope you’ll do the same for me.
Are you at the mercy of whatever happens to enter your mind? Sometimes this becomes an excuse we make. It is one tool we use to justify a lack of transformation in our lives.
Now, you may (or may not) want any transformation in your life, but people of God are promised, offered, commanded it.
So here we go. Can we, indeed, change our minds?
I did so last night. I am still surprised that it happened, and the degree to which it succeeded.
You see, I had a particular song in my head. It doesn’t matter what song it was, but you know how this works. Sometimes you get a song in your head and it just stays. (I once had the theme from the A-Team in my head for over a year, but don’t hold that against me)
I was tired of this particular song, whatever it was, so I set to thinking of a different song. I hoped to replace one song with another.
It worked. I don’t mind telling you, either, that, for whatever reason, the new song, that I now cannot get out of my head is Shine, by the Newsboys. (Thank you, Glen Lake Camp, for making sure that song was in my recall files.)
Changing what is in one’s mind is not always this easy, but it IS possible. More than that, perhaps it will help you to know that God is interested in changing our minds (Romans 12:2 & 2 Corinthians 10:5, for example).
Give it a try. Start with something little, like a song in your head.
God’s it for it. Are you?