Read: Romans 12:1-18
John Wesley lived in England in the 1700’s. The main church was the Church of England, the “King’s church”, in which Wesley was ordained. At the time the Church of England was elitist, out of touch with the needs of the people. There were Roman Catholics living in England. There was the “dissenters church” that John’s mother, Susanna Wesley, had been raised in as a child, she was a “PK” or pastor’s kid. He was greatly influenced by his mother, Susanna Wesley, an incredible woman of faith. She had more influence on John, than by his father, Samuel, who was an Anglican priest. John studied the writing of the reformers, John Calvin and Martin Luther. Finally, Wesley’s life and ministry gained great vitality through his fellowship with other Christians, particularly the Moravians. Wesley had a great balance between advanced education, strong personal commitment, and healthy Christian unity.
Wesley was able to learn from others, even those with whom he disagreed. It was John Wesley who coined the popular phrase, “Let us agree to disagree” when he and fellow evangelist George Whitefield disagreed. Agreeing to disagree is a good place to be in life and faith. Wesley taught, “As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.” That approach to life: “Think and let think” and “to live and let live” is a good, healthy place to be in life and faith.
The quote, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” is not actually from John Wesley, although many have attributed it to him. The quote dates back to St. Augustine. However, the quote does represent the spirit of Christianity to which Wesley was deeply committed; its sentiment is very present in Wesley’s famous sermon on “The Catholic (universal) Spirit” of true Christianity.
Wesley was very well educated, graduating from Oxford University, authoring a number of books, and teaching for a time at the university. He knew what others believed and he knew what he believed. His convictions were well informed. His beliefs were challenged, not compromised, by diversity. Our modern world, excelling with change and cultural diversity, seems to frustrate many. We can learn and benefit a great deal from the life, faith, and example of John Wesley.
Pastor Rob Nystrom