John Wesley has many quotes that have lingered, and some that we would be wise to heed. One such quote that has been on my mind lately:
Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as you ever can.
How often do we approach our faith in this manner? With conscious effort to “do all the good you can”? I think we tend to the opposite approach.
Avoid all the sin you can.
We come by it honestly really. It’s bred into our everyday living. We try to be good law-abiding citizens (most of us!). And to be a good law-abiding citizen means that we are not breaking the law – we aren’t doing anything wrong. To my knowledge, there are very few “thou shall”s in our American laws. You must pay taxes, and educate your children. But beyond that, just don’t be bad. Don’t break the speed limit, don’t murder anyone, and if you are the University of Kentucky’s campus absolutely DO NOT park in the wrong place (not even for a second!).
But Jesus redefined the law for Christians completely differently. Jesus summarized the law as this:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
He doesn’t say, “don’t sin”. He says, “you shall love“. We can avoid sin with a life of passivity. We can be hermits, avoid interactions with people and not hurt anyone, and thereby stay clean. That is how we tend to define sin these days isn’t it? Not hurting other people. It is the chief sin of America today to offend someone. So, we tread lightly where our fellow man is concerned. We work hard to not offend, to not hurt others. And many times this leads to passivity.
But we can’t love passively. Love is more than just not hurting someone. Love requires action. It required interaction. We can’t passively let the world pass us by and work hard at thinking good thoughts trying to please God. What He desires is that we love, and that we love well. It requires action.
As I have thought about Mr. Wesley’s admonition to “do all the good you can” I have realized these things:
Avoiding all the sin I can leads me to a life of guilt. I am constantly left feeling guilty because I didn’t avoid all sin. I will never be able to avoid all sin.
Avoiding all the sin I can leads me to never sharing Christ with others. What if I offend them? What if they get angry?
Doing all the good I can frees me to share the love of God with my neighbor. I can and will love my neighbor. I will share the gospel because it is Good News! I would be the stingiest person on the block to withhold good news.
Doing all the good I can frees me from guilt. For one, I am focused on the right thing: good.
There is no one good but the Father.
And when I am doing all the good I can, there are limits. There is only so much good I can do.
What would it mean to you, to free yourself from avoiding all the sin you can, and pursue living a life of doing all the good you can? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear!