Three Simple Rules
Three simple rules. If only it was that easy. The name is quite misleading as the rules are indeed simple, but the concept of following those rules is where life gets complex. In a vacuum, following the rules is easy. Doing no harm, doing good and staying in love with God is quite simple when you’re in a cocoon of safety. Place yourself out where the metal meets the meat, and you find yourself under fire and ducking for cover, with the desire to fire back, do harm, and love God when and if you have the time becoming the règle du jour.
out where the metal meets the meat you find yourself under fire and ducking for cover.
The love of God is the key component behind these rules, and for that love to exist in someone and radiate out from their self requires God’s other-centric loving nature to be the rule of the day in a person’s life. Love of self has to go by the wayside, as does the love of others as a chief motivator. The chief and principal motivator of love must be the love of God. Christ focused on this when he said that the greatest must be a servant and the leader must be a slave. We are in service to others, however, we are a slave to God and only God. This belief isn’t just a nice sentiment, but a survival mechanism. Remember, we’re not called to ministry in the safe confines of a church, but rather on the battlefields of the heart. We are promised that fight will be rewarding, but also quite injurious.
Firmly rooting our lives in the love of God, completely sold out and submitted to it, with an eyes-wide-open view of what ministry truly entails, all three rules will have a snowball’s chance on a Georgia blacktop in summer of being followed.
Fittingly, the first rule is where the first battles are fought. It’s in the rule of Do No Harm that we discover our greatest challenges due to our interests to do great good for God. We can potentially trample those on our team, our congregation, our mission field by being overly enthusiastic, possessed by a god, but not by the one true God. If we are to do no harm, we must put the human hearts of others ahead of the human accomplishments of self. The trouble here is that sometimes these two opposing concepts can come to loggerheads, and the result is collateral damage everywhere. Harm is done, good is not done, and our ability to stay in love with God is jeopardized greatly through a variety of avenues from shame to hubris and beyond.
Balancing proper teamwork means loving God so completely that you trust him with details and intersects, and recognize the individual human need of the congregants and those God is drawing to the church to feel loved, but also of the people within the worship team. Leading requires leaning. Leaning on God, leaning on His ability to coordinate efforts for a positive outcome, and leaning on your team. Leaning on your faith more than on your gifting is what a lot of this comes down to.
love them as God loves them. Something as simple as that. Nothing more, nothing less.
Once you have that down, you can step into the battle to do good. It’s been stated that people will forget what you said, and forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. There’s a massive challenge here in that people must be receptive to the good you wish to do, especially when you’re leading them someplace they don’t want to go, but where they need to be. Doing good for someone requires trust from another person that you’re not the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. In a day and age where polarization is the norm, and people are divisive while shaming others for their lack of unity, it’s not surprising. The first good we need to do for someone before we can do anything else, is to love them as God loves them. Something as simple as that. Nothing more, nothing less, regardless of their response, regardless of their concerns, regardless of how long it takes. It doesn’t matter how lovable or unlovable, how dirty or clean, how deeply broken or together they are, what kind of damage they have done to you or others. Just love them. Not because you have to or are obligated to, but because God chose to love you and them both when your sin was exactly as repulsive to Him as theirs. Only then can you do good.
All of this takes a toll on a person. It’s hard. It’s combat on a soul-deep battlefield and we will be wounded, broken, healed, and sent back into the fray. It’s there that the final rule comes into play. Stay in love with God. Stay connected to the one who gives us life, circling back, spending the night in prayer on the mountain like Jesus, deeply seeking His forgiveness where we’ve not been our best, receiving His rejoicing and favor when we have, and growing in a faithful, humble walk with God.
If we don’t, we will end up as another casualty, and potentially so will others to which we were sent to bring the good news. That cost is too high a price not to adhere to the three simple rules, no matter the complexities.
Roland Millington is a United Methodist Church pastor serving Brimfield United Methodist Church in Brimfield, IL. He's the author of two books available digitally through our store, or as hard copies through LuLu Publishing.