Last month we took a serious look at a serious Anglican minister and Christian theologian of yore, John Wesley. He was ministering and writing in a time of great upheaval within England specifically and Europe broadly, which makes him ideally suited to speak to our own measurable upheaval.
Using a new resource on his teachings by Thomas Oden, John Wesley's Teachings: Society and Ethics, we've explored Wesley's pastoral wisdom on ethics and society, as well as criticism's of his teachings and our readings of them. A few weeks ago we excerpted a section on judging others.
Today we explore Wesley's teachings on entering and seeking the Kingdom of God. Because I've written on the subject myself, having explored recent evangelical appropriations of Kingdom language, I was particularly intrigued to read how Wesley would approach the Kingdom language of Jesus.
From the excerpt below Wesley seems to have equated the Kingdom with the rule of God over the individual heart. In his words: “Let him reign without a rival. Let him possess all your heart, and rule alone. Let him be your one desire, your joy, your love.” And what is produced by letting God reign is righteousness, which is love of God and love of others. For Wesley the Kingdom wasn't merely about community transformation, but individual transformation; social changes were incidental to personal ones.
Wesley firmly rooted his Christian ethic in Jesus' so-called Sermon on the Mount, saying it acted as “a summary of the Christian life, beginning with repentance and proceeding through justification to perfect love.” (179-180) Evangelicals would do well to follow Wesley's lead, especially how they view and talk about the Kingdom of God.
-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)