John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, once said that “there are many doctrines of a less essential nature, with regard to which even sincere children of God are and have been divided for ages. In these we may think and let think; we ‘agree to disagree.’ But let us hold fast to the essentials of the faith strongly insisted on at all times and in all places.”
Methodists do not get up in the morning and say “We are right and everybody else is wrong.” On many matters, faithful, intelligent people disagree, and we learn much from each other when we listen and share on such issues.
At the same time, we are Christian, and we passionately believe in the core of what has always been the heart of Christianity.
We believe in God; that there is a God, and that God is personal, active, caring, powerful, and above all else, Love.
We believe God made the world, and the universe is the theater of God’s glory, something we treasure because it exhibits who God is; we see ourselves and everything in the world as belonging to God.
We believe God made us; we are not mere accidents, we are crafted and loved by God; we bear in ourselves the very image of God.
We do not always “get it,” though: we sin, we turn away from God, we try to live independently or self-indulgently; we hurt each other.
But God doesn’t give up on us. God relentlessly labors and loves, to win our hearts, to forgive, to renovate our souls and our world so we can be good again, so we can serve God.
The Bible is the story of God’s action to love the world, and us in it; human authors captured their dramatic, direct experience of God, and their words become God’s Word to us by which we know about God and ourselves, how to live, and our destiny.
The zenith of God’s action in the world is Jesus: he was God’s Word in the flesh, God’s son, the very heart and mind of God walking around, healing, teaching, and suffering and dying for us. “For God loved the world so much he gave his only Son, and whoever believes in him does not perish, but inherits eternal life” (John 3:16).
We follow Jesus’ example; we are reshaped by his words; we see his crucifixion and we are awestruck by the immense love of God; we are healed and the door to heaven is opened to us after this life is over.
In the meantime, we are nurtured and inspired by God’s presence, the Holy Spirit; we are not solo Christians, but we are a family, the “Body of Christ,” together the embodied presence of God on this earth, eager to share the Good News with others, determined to serve humbly as Christ served, hopeful of the future day when God will restore everything to its God-given purpose.