Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What John Wesley said that is IMPOSSIBLE to Ignore

In the 18th Century, John Wesley preached to thousands of people, and became a prominent religious teacher, whose actions prompted the beginnings of the Methodist movement. He is mainly known for his teachings on holiness, and the privilege of believers to live holy, sanctified lives before the Lord.

There was something John Wesley said that is impossible to ignore!
In an English society that was becoming increasingly individualistic in outlook, Wesley said that there is no holiness without social holiness. Now what did he mean by that? I have never really understood the gravity of this statement until recently.

He meant, that when someone lives a holy life, the impact is not just on the individual, but on society as a whole. A holy life affects the community at large.

Think about the Christian politician who is challenged publicly by a journalist about their faith in Christ. We have heard the response numerous times before, ‘My faith is between me and God, and is private matter.’ This sounds cute and safe, but what is actually being said is, ‘My faith is between me and God, and won’t affect anybody.’ Wait a minute, how is that even possible? If I am a Christian and I walk through the supermarket and someone falls over and hurts themselves, does my faith matter? One would suggest that if I have any depth to my relationship with God, then I would feel compassion on the person who has fallen and desire to help them. My faith has a social impact. Now, that’s not to say people who aren’t Christians don’t help people in need, far from it (and many are better than Christians), but it is clear that a relationship with God changes the way we interact with society. Social holiness is about lives committed to Christ, that impact society, by virtue of what God is doing in their lives.

So back to the politician. Say she needs to make a policy decision about asylum seekers. If she truly is a follower of Jesus, she would surely request the wisdom of God in formulating that policy. That would not be unreasonable to suggest. Now, go with me for a minute. If the policy is created and communicated to the society at large, her faith has not been private, it’s made a wider impact. You  cannot have holiness without social holiness.

You may think your faith is private and you may want it to be private, but what God does inside of you, impacts others. In fact, it should. If what God does in your life does not impact others, then go back to God in prayer and ask why!

Let me labour the point a little further. Your faith cannot just be a thing that is ‘between me and God.’ This is a cop-out and dare I say a response made in fear of the repercussions of what a public faith would mean. Irrespective of how overtly you communicate what you believe, your actions will show society the depth of your belief. You cannot divorce your faith from its impact upon society.
An interesting passage is found in Leviticus chapter 19. Have a look at verse 1-2:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”   

This is gold. The Lord effectively says to Moses, ‘Quick, get EVERYONE together, I want to tell them something!’ God doesn’t pass on a message to a select few, but God wants everyone of the people of Israel to hear what is about to be spoken. Then the challenge comes, ‘Be holy!’ The reason you are called to be holy, is because God is holy and you are called to reflect the image of God. God is holy, therefore you should reflect holiness.

Now, that’s not simply the end of the story. As you may well know, if you’ve fallen asleep reading the somewhat repetitious laws outlined in Leviticus, you see that holiness has some expectations attached to it. Amidst laws around forgiveness, sickness, sexuality and personal renewal before God, we see this pearler just further on from the passage in Leviticus 19:1-2 that we just looked at:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God (Lev. 19:9-10).

Let me recap. God challenges the people to be holy, as God is holy. Then, out of that holiness, when you’re gathering your produce from the farm, leave some for the poor. You see what happened there? Individual holiness affects society. When you are holy, these are the things you will do: you’ll look after the poor. 

Your faith affects others!

As John Wesley said, there is no holiness without social holiness. Your depth of relationship with God affects others. Will it affect others for good?


  1. Amen, Pete! Thanks for modeling that for us!

  2. This really should be obvious to anyone who call themselves Christian . Unfortunately, it seems it still isn't. Thanks for the reminder!


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