July 6, 1999
To the Editor of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate
All that God requires of any human, in a practical way, is conformity to the Golden Rule. But Jesus not only revealed this truth to us (Matthew 7:12), he also made possible two great advantages for those of us who earnestly wish to be like him (but who are unable to due to our weaknesses), namely 1. our commitment itself TO the Golden Rule stands for the required compliance WITH that rule (and so we are spared judgment), and 2. we will, through faith and then also progressively (with sufficient time), come to discover that what was difficult to comply with at first has become easier (and hence the famous Wesleyan dictum: "while we are far from perfect, we are not as far as once we were; and we are on the way").
It stands to reason that all the possible, moral commandments for us must be derived from this very rule, which in turn is so simple and so clear that it is accessible even to children. All our parents asked us at one time or another, and before we ever consciously committed to the Golden Rule in Christ, "how would you like it if someone did that to you?." I claim Paul's agreement with me in this matter per Romans 13:8-10, and I invite all readers to consider this very carefully and with open mind.
All actions derived from this rule are mandatory for the individual Christian and are good; what is a violation of this rule is evil and (when intentionally committed) a sin; and what is not derived from the rule, but also not prohibited by it, is permitted and up to the individual.
Paul may very well have been horrified about homosexual acts; he certainly seemed horrified by women who did not cover their heads in church or who forgot "their place." But that his opinions here can be derived from the Golden Rule is a matter that only Paul can answer for; for it is certainly not clear to me, and I challenge anyone else to reason out his conclusions (in these matters) from the Rule. In any case his opinion is not, and indeed cannot be, binding on me (for between Christ and myself the concern is not the heart or understanding of Paul, but rather that of my own, per Romans 14:4). Furthermore were I now to comply with Paul's opinions simply because they are contained in the official history of the origin of our Christian faith, I would effectively give up all benefit of grace, and would have to claim my righteousness entirely by works of the law (as Paul himself indicated so very well in Galatians).
What is then to be done by those of us who realize the truth of this totally unexpected gift of freedom from law? Romans 14 makes this exceedingly clear, namely those who are "strong in faith" (and thus require no more than Romans 13:8-10 as their guide) must avoid offending those who are "weak in faith" (and thus who feel necessitated to supplement what plain reason itself can derive from this "magical" Rule). But such a rule of inter-Christian conduct is not surprising, is it? for does not this very conduct follow from this very Rule itself, especially when we are dealing with a brother and sister claiming participation in our faith?
In conclusion, John Wesley blessed us richly indeed when he
came to realize that the heart alone is our bond with Christ,
and that through our faith in his love for us (and buoyed by the
power of his resurrection) we will come to experience whatever
perfection it is that God has planned for us while here on earth.
With such a conception as this it is no wonder that the Wesleyan
comes to lose all fear and to exult in the name of God and praise
Him in truth and spontaneity of spirit; and so therefore through
the Second of the Two Great Commandments the First finds honor
and compliance also..
Yours in Christ,
Philip McPherson Rudisill