Is Thine Heart Right?
A popular sermon of John Wesley is his sermon over 2 Kings 10:15 titled “Catholic Spirit”. While we have come to know Catholic as a branch of Christianity it actually means universal. John Wesley sermon is about what unites us as Christians. Today we will look at the introduction and section I(1-3).
“All men approve of this; but do all men practice it? Daily experience shows the contrary. Where are even the Christians who "love one another as he hath given us commandment?" How many hindrances lie in the way! The two grand, general hindrances are, first, that they cannot all think alike and, in consequence of this, secondly, they cannot all walk alike; but in several smaller points their practice must differ in proportion to the difference of their sentiments.
But although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works” (Introduction 3,4)
Wesley begins his sermon by quoting the well-known greatest commandment, to love God and to love thy neighbor as yourself. After proving in the first two paragraphs that love is essential to know God and to live as a follower of Jesus, Wesley poses this questions, “Do we actually practice it?” There are so many things that can divide us and Wesley knew this very well. He grew up in the aftermath of the English Reformation that saw the country go back and forth over Protestantism and Catholicism in violent conflict for over a century. While mostly settled by Wesley’s time, the discord was felt all around as a new wave of theological discussion arose (we call it the Great Awakening). Many did not want the uncertainty and violence that occurred in the previous 100 years of religious reformation to continue and thus choose not to engage with people who thought differently than them. Wesley is looking for a way for Christians who have different opinions on theology, sacraments, and church governance to find a common ground to unite on. Wesley believes this common ground exists and it is not in agreeing on ideas or style of worship. He concedes that this type of external union is extremely unlikely but it is not the only way we can be in union. There is something beyond our opinions and worship that connects us--Jesus. Our common ground exists in agreeing that we are all children of God connected by the love of Christ. As we continue in the sermon I invite you to reflect on how you find common ground with those around you.
And, first, let us consider the question proposed by Jehu to Jehonadab, "Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?"(I.1)
And yet Jehu (although it seems to have been his manner both in things secular and religious, to drive furiously) does not concern himself at all with any of these things, but lets Jehonadab abound in his own sense. And neither of them appears to have given the other the least disturbance touching the opinions which he maintained. (I.2)
n section I of the sermon John develops the idea of having a right heart. While Wesley grew up in the aftermath of the English Reformation- Jehu is leading a revolution. Wesley explains that while both Jehu and Jehonadab had strong opinions and beliefs about many things they are not arguing their positions. In the midst of the stressful situation Jehu is acknowledging Jehonadab’ own sense; his own humanity. Jehu is not attempting to argue or coerce or conquer Jehonadab. Rather, Jehu is offering respect and peace to Jehonadab. This respect and peace is not based on agreement but on seeing the humanity in the other person.
It is very possible, that many good men now also may entertain peculiar opinions; and some of them may be as singular herein as even Jehonadab was. And it is certain, so long as we know but in part, that all men will not see all things alike. It is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and shortness of human understanding, that several men will be of several minds in religion as well as in common life. So it has been from the beginning of the world, and so it will be "till the restitution of all things."(I.3)
Wesley is making the connection that while he and his contemporaries are not in the exact same circumstance as Jehu and Jehonadab they do experience a similar problem: differing opinions and authorities. It may be difficult to understand why people who believe in the same God can have such different opinions and beliefs, Wesley states that it is unavoidable. It is our weakness that we see things the way we want to; which is usually to our own benefit. This is also true for our time. Listening to the way Christians talk to other Christians can be extremely disheartening. Issues over beliefs, worship style and church governance still cause conflict today. I invite you to reflect on this questions and consider how we might offer our heart rightly to those around us.
How do you talk with someone who is of a different opinion than you?
When have you felt like someone chose to “conquer or defeat” you in an argument?
When have you experienced someone offering you respect and peace?
How have you chosen similarly?