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Do No Harm - May 27, 2018

Romans 13:8-10

How is it that the simplest rules are sometimes the hardest to follow? We get this, right? Love your neighbor. Do no harm. We can see it's value and get on board. It really is that simple. Do no harm. So then why do we get it wrong so often? Do we need clarification? Are we not really committed to the welfare of others? Are we willing only as long as it's

convenient? Probably. Yes. Yes. and Yes.
We could easily name a few of the ways we should do no harm. Paul names a few in his letter to the Romans...thou shalt not kill, or steal, or covet or lie. 10 commandments, basic kind of stuff. But what are some of the others? What are the other ways we do harm?

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, made his own list to help his congregations case there were any questions....

He said this: First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as:

• The taking of the name of God in vain.
• The profaning the day of the Lord,[the Sabbath day] either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling.
• Drunkenness: buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity.
• Slaveholding; buying or selling slaves.
• Fighting, quarreling, brawling, brother going to law with brother; returning evil for evil, or railing for railing; the using many words in buying or selling.
• The buying or selling [of] goods that have not paid the duty.
• The giving or taking things on usury—i.e., unlawful interest.
• Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation; particularly speaking evil of magistrates or of ministers.
• Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us.
• Doing what we know is not for the glory of God, as:
• The putting on of gold and costly apparel.
• The taking of such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus.
• The singing those songs, or reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God.
• Softness and needless self-indulgence.
• Laying up treasure upon earth.
• Borrowing without a probability of paying, or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them.

You know, when doing no harm includes all those things some of us are a little more guilty than we thought. Right? You don't have to tell your neighbors which ones you struggle with, but what we all need to see is that we all struggle. Plain and simple. It seems easy enough—do no harm, but when we look at all the ways to live that becomes more challenging. And that's just on a personal scale.

What about if we think of doing no harm to others in collective ways? What about the ways our work, or our friend group, or our church or our nation is a part of harming people? The bigger the institution the easier it is to distance ourselves..."Well, they're the ones doing it, not me." But when we have a say in the policies and practices and those policies are harming people we have an obligation to do say make a call, to send an email, to say it isn't ok to let the water be contaminated, or lives to be taken, or families to be separated, or children to be lost, or people to be sold into sex slavery, or basic human needs to be ignored.

I know we don't like to get political, but the message of Jesus really is political....not in the sense of democrats or republicans...but in the sense that Jesus challenges the institutional injustices. He challenges the ways we do harm as a people and he teaches us to live and love more freely, more willingly, more generously—to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned—yes, even the ones in prison for heinous crimes. They are each children of God. We are taught to welcome the stranger—the foreigner, the immigrant, the refugee. To care for the children. To bless those who persecute us.
Jesus doesn't place limits on who is acceptable, who is worthy, who is good enough to warrant this goodness. In fact, he pushes us to the extreme of who we might include. Any time we start to think, "surely not them" he comes and says, "of course them. Most certainly them. In fact, you should probably start with them."
In the ways of Jesus, doing no harm is not limited to friends and family, it's not saved for those who only do right by us. Doing no harm is for everyone—the liars, the cheats, the manipulators, the adulterous, the lawbreakers, the scandalous, the sinful...for each is a child of God. For us to be better people, better followers of Christ, we have to recognize that we have failed....not so we can be stuck in shame or guilt, but so we can begin to change our ways, so we can confront our prejudices, our hatred, our sense of self-righteousness.
For some of us, God is calling to mind our personal sins....our sins of temptation, of disobedience, of lust, of greed, of selfishness and pride. It's ok to be uncomfortable in seeing those and acknowledging those. We're not meant to be proud of our failings. But we can take those things and lay them at the cross....acknowledging we did something wrong and asking for the strength and conviction to be better, more loving, more faithful.
For others of us, God is shining a light on the ways we have become hardened to the news and the plight of others....those who are targeted because of the color of their skin or the ways and God they worship, those children who are desperately afraid to go to school for fear that their school might be next, the babies being taken from their parents in the name of lawfulness, and children being lost in a system meant to care for them.

We could argue nuance, or semantics, or even politics...but at the end of the day, what are we asked to do: LOVE one another. That's not about how we feel about each other. Paul uses the word agape which means, God's abundant, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. Agape one another. Show one another what it means to lift up the other person to care for them in mind, body, and spirit. To care for them as if they were your own child, or grandchild, or sister, or brother or best friend.

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322 East Third Street
Moscow, ID 83843


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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...

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