given on November 2, 2014
Okay, I admit. I have may have shirked my responsibility this week. Maybe I have avoided my responsibility for even a month. I must now face the consequence for what I have—or have not—done. If I am really honest, I have to say that the Royals games took over the structure of my days.
Now I must pay the consequences regardless of the final out. The last game demonstrated in nine innings the struggles of our own lives. When the game was over, the players’ conduct revealed their true character and whether or not they accepted responsibility for the outcome. They proved they were indeed royal.
Ask yourself: If the cameras were recording me, would my behaviors provide evidence that I am living a Christian life responsibly? Do I respond to daily life as a Christian? What is my responsibility as a Christian?
The responsibility of all Christians is to live in God’s world loving one another and being good stewards of this world. And, being as honest as I can, I think I failed this week. Following the Royals and enjoying the game became a priority. I posted the KC Star pages in the hallway. October turned blue, and I turned right along with them wearing blue jeans and blue anyway I could, and even right down to that last strike when my emotions turned blue.
There is the issue. Life hands each of us challenges, sometimes it is strictly personal, sometimes it is an issue in our community, and sometimes it deals with a much larger field. How do we respond? Are we acting responsibly? Do we take responsibility?
Add to those questions one more: Are we being Christian?
The question that focuses our decisions was coined at least 20 years ago: What would Jesus do? The response to any challenge should be checked by a conscious review of what would Jesus do. As Methodists, we could follow up with another questions: What would John Wesley do? Are we doing all that we can, for all we can, in all the ways we can, at all the times we can?
Honestly, checking our response to challenges through Wesley’s expectations may be more difficult than through Jesus’. Wesley reformed how Christians accepted their responsibility in living out their faith. He wanted God to be personal, not filtered through clergy who may or may not be living life as Jesus would. As recorded in Matthew 23, Jesus knew this could become an issue:
23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.[a] 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
Wesley had the same concern and as the reformation continued, the Christian responsibility became personal. Christians no longer could excuse themselves from accepting full responsibility for acting as Jesus would act:
11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Is Wesley’s method still ‘what would Jesus do’? Is what each of us does, the same as what Jesus would do? As a community-focused church, is the church still doing what Jesus would do? Are we being responsible?
More importantly, I must ask myself, am I being a responsible Christian? God has granted me grace, loves me for whom I am, and only asks that I follow his commandments to love him above all else and to love others as I want to be loved. If I am being a responsible Christian, I need to respond as Jesus would, as Wesley would.
This week, I think I failed. I got so focused on the Royals, I did not take care of other tasks I should have. Who have I hurt—myself mainly, but also family and students and even churches. I made poor decisions on prioritizing my tasks. By the time game 7 ended, I still did not have the COS papers done, I had only a limited amount of work done for today’s service, and I was tired which caused me to perform poorly at school.
How many times in our lives do we do the same thing? We put our Christian responsibility on hold while we have fun. We fail to do what Jesus would do or what Wesley would do. We ignore what Jesus taught us.
Today we are opening a new month. November is that time when rural communities finish up the harvest, count their blessings, and begin planning for the spring. Churches get busy with fundraisers and planning for Advent season. Communities do the same, but the focus shifts to making profits. Americans even make transitions with the annual elections. In all these activities, do Christians respond as Jesus does or as Wesley would expect?
Living a Christian life responsibly does take work. We can believe in the reality of Jesus Christ, and we know the story of how he died for our sins. Wesley understood how difficult it can be to live the Christian lifestyle responsibly, so he read, studied, and preached the scripture.
The works of piety are the methods by which Wesley maintained his Christian lifestyle. According to the “Life Application Topic: Salvation,” in the Wesley Study Notes Bible, Wesley used the Book of James as a foundation for his practices:
In James, faith is a set of specific practices—engendered in the congregation—that make disciples walk in a different direction than the world’s way. . . . In James, salvation is when you talk and walk like Jesus.
Talk and walk like Jesus, this is key to living a Christian life. When we respond like Jesus would respond, we are being responsible. Scripture should gauge the decisions we make, and Wesley included the study of scripture as a work of piety.
James provides very clear guidelines for living a responsible Christian life. Reviewing the subtitles gives us a picture of what to pay attention to:
- Faith and Wisdom
- Poverty and Riches
- Trial and Temptation
- Hearing and Doing the Word
- Warning against Partiality
- Faith without Works Is Dead
- Taming the Tongue
- Two Kinds of Wisdom
- Friendship with the World
- Warning against Judging Another
- Boasting about tomorrow
- Warning to Rich Oppressors
- Patience in Suffering
- The Prayer of Faith (another of Wesley’s works of piety)
The challenge in living a Christian life is learning how to be responsible, to accept our Christian responsibility, and then to respond to life’s challenges along Wesley’s guidelines. Undoubtedly living life responsibly is not easy, but the gift of salvation, now and into eternity, fills our live with peace and joy beyond measure.
Today our lives are so full of distractions
We fail to maintain our Christian responsibility.
Forgive us when we do not respond
As Jesus taught us to respond.
Help us to follow Wesley’s practices more closely
So we can accept our Christian responsibility
In order to do all we can for all we can. –Amen