Part of John Wesley’s genius, as the founder of the Methodist Movement, was the way he organized to make disciples. He established small groups everywhere he went. When these small groups met, they would go through a list of questions at each meeting. The questions were designed to guide the group members into a deeper walk with God.
Here is the fourth question:
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?
Wesley knew better than to think that spirituality, or following Jesus, was simply a matter of spending time each day in prayer and bible study. He knew that following Jesus would affect every area of our lives: including the way we dress, our choice of friends, where and how we work, and habits we hold on to.
But the wording of this question reminds us that neither is following Jesus only about shopping at different stores, befriending a different group of people, etc. The beginning of the question is as important to the disciple of Jesus as the ending: “Am I a slave…?”
In John 8:31-32 Jesus said “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Following Jesus sets us free from all matters of bondage, including things like clothing, friends, work, and habits.
Perhaps the most basic way this question challenges us to grow is in facing the truth that everyone who follows Jesus doesn’t look exactly like us. They won’t all dress the same, have the same friends, work the same jobs, or have exactly the same habits.
I’m reminded of a story told by a deeply faithful Free Methodist college Professor. His young adult daugther was in a relationship with a young man of the Dutch Reformed tradion. Unlike the Free Methodists, Dutch Reformed do not carry the same social taboos on alcohol and tobacco.
Knowing the young man to be a committed Christian nevertheless, this professor told me how he and his wife sought to reach out across such different practices. If their daughter was serious about him, they would make every effort. They invited him to join them at the symphony.
The young man graciously declined. “While I very much appreciate the invitation, I would never dream of doing such a thing on the sabbath,” he told them.
When we find ourselves enslaved to some social particulars, we might set up barriers that keep us from fellowship, and that can poorly represent our Lord.
Dress, friends, work, and habits matter. They matter deeply. But they are not lord of our lives. That place is reserved for Jesus.