As I mentioned in my last post, the founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, provided us a methodical way of training in our Christian faith. He called this way, the holiness of heart. To achieve this John Wesley prescribed works of piety and works of mercy. My last post dealt with works of piety, but what are works of mercy?
For me, the foundational passage, for instructing us on works of mercy, is found in Matthew 25:31-45.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'
What we believe is important, but what we do with those beliefs are just as important. John Wesley taught that people must be Christians in both word and deed. The works that we do express our love of God. He believed that Christians must grow in God's grace, which first prepares us for belief, then accepts us when we respond to God in faith, and sustains us as we do good works and participate in God's mission. John Wesley not only preached about works of mercy, he "practiced" what he preached.
This one of the main reasons I am a Christian who practices in a United Methodist Church. John Wesley lived and taught that Christians could not have authentic personal holiness without social holiness. I believe the same. We must discover and live out the faith of our hearts with the works of our hands.