September 18, 2003
To the Editor of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate
Note to the Editor. I am writing in the spirit of Acts 15:1,2. If thought more appropriately to that spirit the terms "Formal" and "Free" might be used in the pace of "weak-in-faith" and "strong-in-faith", respectively, or even "Jewish" and "Gentile" or "Law-Abiding" and "Lawless". I prefer the terminology of Paul. The essay now follows:
All Christians seek to love God absolutely, neighbor as self and fellow Christian more than self. We expect the help of, and even possession by, the Holy Spirit in this endeavor.
Paul's "weak-in-faith" (WF) reason in this way: first God, and then, because we love him absolutely, his commandments, and then love of neighbor, etc. The "strong-faith" (SF) agrees in this with the WF, Paul tells us, but then believes it just so happens that there are no other commandments of God, and leave it to the WF to dispute among themselves as to what commandments there are and how they are to be understood and implemented.
Thus the WF and the ST constitute two great congregations of our church, each of which alone can be a perfect example of the church, just as the left and right hands can each be a perfect example of a hand. And one congregation, the WF, is like a hand to which a glove is fitted (the laws of God in their eyes), but which will not fit the hand of the other, the SF, for if the WF are a right hand, let us say, then the SF are a left hand.
All this came about when Jesus, possessing all authority, conveyed this all power to his disciples and then when they in unanimity with the Holy Spirit, and at the express behest of Paul, emancipated the gentile Christians from all law (Acts 15), and gave them over to Paul and the Holy Spirit. He, in the authority of both Jesus and the empowered disciples of Jesus, declared the gentiles free from all law, and declared that all things were lawful in our pursuit of a love of the spirit of the three loves, even though not all things would be expedient in that endeavor, e.g., flaunting the liberty of the SF in the face of the WF. for we are to love fellow Christian more than self. And so when Paul declared that long hair on men were unnatural he was not pretending to dictate to the conscience of a mature, gentile Christian.
Therefore when United Methodist confer they are to speak and act in terms of the promotion of the Holy Spirit and the three loves, and above all to praise God for Jesus, His gift. Then, after they depart, both congregations of this great church are free to seek the ear of the new or unattached United Methodist who will be looking for help in the pursuit of, and invitation to, the Holy Spirit. And let whatever be done always be done in the spirit of Romans 14-15:2..
Yours in common pursuit of the three great loves!
Philip McPherson Rudisill