Are we still learning? Are we open to guidance? To direction?
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in the 1700s, once wrote about this very subject. He knew that some, from time to time, disagreed with him. To this he said, "I trust, wherever I have been mistaken, that my mind is still open to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say to God and man, "What I do know, would you please teach me!""
This is amazing humility. For many people today, not knowing is seen as failure. We are hyper-competitive (coming from the former college basketball coach) and are driven by fears at home and work that if others think we don't know something, they will have some power over us. But, there is a better way. In his preface to a collection of his writings, known as his Standard Sermons, Wesley described what happened whenever he read a scripture and was unclear of its meaning. After following a process of prayer and continued scriptural reflection, he would turn to others for their opinions: “If any doubt still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God . . . and what I thus learn, that I teach.” Again, take note that Wesley, a national bestselling author and probably the most followed preacher in England for five decades or more, is willing for others to correct him in scriptural interpretation, a field in which he had excelled all his life.
For Wesley, the Methodist movement was to be a movement of revitalization. It was to revitalize not only the Church of England that he served as a local parish priest, but also the hearts of men and women in the pews and outside on the streets. For Wesley, grace was at the core of what he believed about God. He taught that it can be 'received' like water flowing down through channels like prayer, reading the Bible, attending worship, taking communion, and serving others. Wesley believed this grace was best seen in the life of Jesus the Christ. This grace was reshaping everything. The Methodist historian, Albert Outler, stated, "The heart of Wesley's gospel was always its lively sense of God's grace at work at every level of creation and history in persons and communities."
Imagine how our lives would be different if we could live into the truths about God, the purpose of the church, and grace in our lives that Wesley had. Imagine if each of us committed to lives that did not stop learning. Wesley was actively preaching and studying and learning until his last days. Can the same be said of us? I pray that it can.
Grace and Peace, Scott