Two “bummer” words in one title! Who wants “serious” when we can have “fun?” And “holiness?” The other “H” word – “happiness” – is much preferred.
Yet in the Methodist tradition, holiness was a serious pursuit from the beginning. Holiness was pursued not solitarily but in community. In the Methodist community more thought was given to the question, “How can I help my brother/sister in Christ become holy?” than to “How can I help my sister/brother be happy?” It was this serious pursuit of holiness that led the early Methodists to ask a series of questions before they became members.
- Have you the forgiveness of your sins?
- Have you peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ?
- Have you the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit that you are a child of God?
- Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?
- Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?
- Do you desire to be told of your faults?
- Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home?
- Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in his heart concerning you?
- Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear concerning you?
- Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible; that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?
- Is it your desire and design to be, on this and all other occasions, entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise and without reserve?
Can we ask these questions today? Do they even make sense to us? The only way we can do so is to find our identity and security in Christ rather than our own (pretended) goodness. But, like Wesley, I think it would be good for us.