Marks of a True Methodist
In 1742, John Wesley delineated the aspects of practical divinity:
distinguishing marks of a Methodist are not his opinions of any sort…While he thus always exercises his love to God,
by praying without ceasing, rejoicing evermore, and in everything giving
thanks, this commandment is written in his heart, "That he who loveth God,
love his brother also." And he accordingly loves his neighbour as himself;
he loves every man as his own soul. His heart is full of love to all mankind,
to every child of "the Father of the spirits of all flesh." That a
man is not personally known to him, is no bar to his love; no, nor that he is
known to be such as he approves not, that he repays hatred for his good-will.
For he "loves his enemies;" yea, and the enemies of God, "the
evil and the unthankful." And if it be not in his power to "do good
to them that hate him," yet he ceases not to pray for them, though they
continue to spurn his love, and still "despitefully use him and persecute
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, affirmed that Methodists are known not as much for their particular beliefs as for their demonstrable actions, even toward those who disagree with them. Methodists care about virtuous character formation as well as testing such Christian character in real situations with the community. Hospitality in its most basic form is to practice how to be in right relationship with others. When early Methodists were an emerging and still minority community, Wesley’s advice perhaps carried a different meaning than when the Methodist organization became a mainline religious tradition alongside other Christian denominations.
Wesley was adamant: We simply cannot claim the marks of a Methodist in social isolation, disengaged from the troubles of the world. Holy consternation cajoles us into taking up the causes of the outcasts – those whose backs are up against the wall – and to act with equity and justice toward others in society.
Each of the Social Principles in this section responds to the urgency to instill and sustain the qualities of the beloved and just community in our congregations.2
1Global Ministries, “’The Character of a Methodist,’ by John Wesley,” http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/John-Wesley-Sermons/The-Wesleys-and-Their-Times/The-Character-of-a-Methodist.
2Justice in Everyday Life, p. 30.