Do No Harm

Monday, March 9, 2009

In his book, Three Simple Rules, Rueben Job elaborates on the three principles of Christian living that John Wesley wrote of in the 18th Century. Wesley believed that following Christ required discipline, and he outlined these practices in the “General Rules” for the small groups that were the core of the early Methodist movement.

Job invites us to consider these rules as an alternative to the “frenzied, divisive, and destructive lifestyle our culture offers us.”

1. Do no harm
2. Do good
3. Stay in love with God

Rule #1 is so simple, even children understand it, but practicing it proves to be quite challenging. This rule requires us to give careful thought to our every word, thought, and deed. It requires strict discipline and a surrender of selfish power and control. What a daily challenge!

We harm others when we give in to gossip, speak badly about others, or diminish those who disagree with us.

We do harm to ourselves when we don’t take care of our health or when we don’t use our resources wisely.

Sometimes we even cause unintentional harm when we make a careless comment or accidentally slight someone or unknowingly ignore a cry for help.

We tend to do intentional harm as a result of some kind of conflict and then use our words or actions against someone. As Rev. Mark reminded in his sermon, it’s hard to do harm to people when we view everyone as a child of God. He said, “To be clothed with Christ is to see humanity.” When we do this, we put away sinful, earthly things.

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:8-10

Wesley said that when we find common ground with others, we want to extend love to them. We change the climate and conversation when we see the humanity of others. He called it “Holy Conferencing” and used the term to describe gathering in the name of Christ to support, encourage, discuss and make decisions by calling on the Holy Spirit to guide the process.

Imagine how the atmosphere of our churches, schools, workplaces, homes, neighborhoods, and other gathering places would change if we practiced “Holy Conferencing.” We would eliminate words, thoughts, and actions that offend others. By asking the Holy Spirit to guide us and then by being obedient, we take off the old self and put on the new self. Then we “do no harm.”

Oh, Father, help us to put off our sinful, selfish ways. Help us to see others as you see them. Guide our thoughts, words, and actions so that we may do no harm. Forgive us when we fail you. Amen


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