But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this.
(Galatians 5:22-23 CEB)
There is a lot of hand wringing in part of the Christian community right now. With a new president who doesn’t seem to share many of our values, we are asking, “What do we do?”
I have an idea. Let me know what you think.
A Methodist answer
The idea isn’t actually mine. It comes from the history of my United Methodist denomination.
In the earliest days of Methodism, when it went from a small group activity into a genuine movement, a group of Methodists in Bristol, England built their first building. The New Room was a place for the gathering of the faithful. Methodist Christians, who at the time were also members of the Church of England or another church, came during the week for extra preaching, teaching, and singing of their theology. But that wasn’t all they did in the meetinghouse.
They deliberately designed the New Room for much more. All the furniture was movable because they held school for the poor children in the same room. They dispensed home remedies to those who could who afford to see a doctor from the New Room, and gave food to those who were struggling to make ends meet.
Another unique feature of the New Room is that there are no windows on the first floor of the building. This was to keep passersby from seeing individuals inside.
In addition to giving privacy to those who were coming for help, it also protected those who were associated with this “radical” bunch called Methodists. You see, they were preaching against slavery, an important plank in the economic platform of the area, but an inherent evil. There was a real threat of repercussions by those who disagreed.
You know what was weird? This “unpopular” group of “radicals” grew. They were challenged by the established church, ridiculed by those who saw them as simple or naive, and generally dismissed as harmless. Yet, from that room a worldwide movement began.
This idea, of course, wasn’t original to Wesley and the people called Methodists. This was the method the church through the centuries has used to live out their faith. The issues have changed, but the work is the same.
In the book of Acts the first church worshiped together and made sure everyone had their physical needs met by feeding the poor and caring for those who were oppressed. They courageously stood outside societal norms, while meeting the needs of those who were victims of abuses of power.
The early church learned this from Jesus, who did these same things. Jesus proclaimed the coming Kingdom of God while he healed the sick, fed the hungry, and loved those who felt they were outside of God’s love.
Not all of this was new to Jesus. The prophets in the Old Testament often talked about the true worship of God including acts of justice and righteousness, caring for one another.
Through the centuries the church has not shared the same ideals as those in power. In the US, we have convinced ourselves that we have—which may have been true for seasons—but this has not always been the case.
There’s work to do
So what do we do now? Let’s learn from our own history as Methodists, as the Church, as Christians.
For Wesley it came down to Jesus’ answer about the greatest commandment: Love God. Love people (see Matthew 22:37-39).
That’s the deal, and you don’t need permission from a policy, politician, preacher, or anyone else to love your neighbor. You just do it. You stand up for justice, as in yesterday’s Women’s March. You also act with compassion for the people around you.
Later in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul says it a bit differently, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this” (Galatians 5:22-23 CEB). There is no law against things like this.
What should we do? Do LOVE not demonizing. Do JOY not anger. Do PEACE not conflict. Practice PATIENCE and KINDNESS while standing up to power—great examples yesterday. Do GOODNESS to those around you. Do FAITHFULNESS to what you believe instead of reaction against another. Do GENTLENESS to yourself, those who are struggling, and those who get you all riled up. Practice SELF-CONTROL on social media and elsewhere.
Do the fruit of the spirit. There is no law against these things.