Christians know that God hates sin. God has condemned murder, lying, stealing, adultery, greed, sexual immorality, blasphemy and worshipping false gods. When an individual comes to having faith in Christ, God’s grace actively seeks to help that person grow toward “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
At the same time, God desires more than just a group of holy individuals. God’s will is that the entire world be re-created to conform to God’s will. Christians are thus called to participate in God’s plan to make everything right. We are called to let God use us to transform the world.
The law proclaimed in the first five books of scripture made it clear that God’s people were to take care of the needy. Then, the prophets reinforced these laws with a clear vision of the kind of world God wants to see.
Micah said, “God shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3).
Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos all spoke God’s word about caring for the poor, for orphans and for widows. Micah summarized the way in which our religious life has to include action for those in need:
With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)
People who have come to faith in Christ through the Wesleyan tradition know that God wants us to transform not just ourselves but the whole world. Our General Rules are clear. Those on the way of salvation are to show that:
First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced ...
Second: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all ... (Book of Discipline, pp. 76-77)
Thus, when we talk about vital congregations, one way we measure vitality is by the ways in which a local church is used by God to transform its community. Churches that feed the hungry, care for the homeless, tutor children and support victims of domestic violence are all doing the Lord’s work. They are loving their neighbors.
We also are called to participate in larger matters of seeking justice through our connectional church. The United Methodist Church has a clear and strong witness seeking immigration reform, so we can welcome the newcomers in our midst and help them find a proper place in our country. We are engaged in advocacy, asking Congress to continue support for feeding the hungry. We are telling our legislatures that the death penalty as practiced today is immoral and a waste of our resources. We continue the fight against racism and sexism in our culture. We seek to stop the spread of pornography and sexual immorality. We are opposed to a culture that sanctions drug and alcohol abuse. We are engaged in transforming the world for Christ.
Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was like the first. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:39). This is an essential part of the Wesleyan way of salvation.