Truest faith penetrates one's heart, soul, mind.
John Wesley would approve, I suspect, of the title of this weekly column, `From Heart to Heart.' Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement in England during the 18th century, was well aware that religious faith is not solely an intellectual assent to a set of doctrines but something that penetrates deeply into one's heart and enlivens the whole of one's life.
Every May, Methodists around the world recall Wesley's own `Aldersgate moment' when he experienced the love of God so keenly that he said it was as though his `heart was strangely warmed.'
It was not until after that experience that the Methodist movement in England began to rapidly grow and touch the hearts of thousands - many from the poor and working classes - with the message of God's unconditional and all-encompassing love.
I begin this short column harkening back to Wesley because we celebrated the 300th anniversary of his birth in June, and even more importantly, because I think he has something to offer us all in a fearful, violent world.
Wesley fervently believed that if the message of God's love in Jesus Christ had taken root genuinely in someone's heart, then it was their responsibility to respond by reaching out in love to others.
Not focused only on saving souls, Wesley was concerned about the here-and-now lives of suffering and impoverished people. He organized a medical clinic in London, founded schools for poor children, and was bitterly opposed to slavery.
One of my favorite of Wesley's maxims reads, `Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.'
My own faith has been animated by Wesley's emphasis on showing evidence of God's love in one's life. A Christian faith that requires nothing more from me than an assent to a creed or doctrine is a faith with no heart.
What I most deeply desire is a Christian faith that grasps my heart, woos my soul and enlivens my mind - all at the same time. This faith compels me to strive for justice, to care about the lives of others and all of creation. I have no illusions of greatness, but I do know that I am given the opportunity to respond to God's love in countless small ways each and every day.
Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer, has said that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.
In America, we live amid a culture of fear, and our fear has distracted us from our true calling. As human beings created in God's image, we are called to love - each other, creation and all that God has declared to be `good.'
As I recall the anniversary of Wesley's birth, I give thanks for his reminder that faith is a matter of the heart with the power to transform fear through authentic acts of love.
The Rev. Jeremy Hajdu-Paulen is the United Methodist Campus Minister at the The Wesley Foundation Center at the University of Oregon. This column is coordinated by Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, a network of faith communities in the Eugene-Springfield area. For more information, call 344-5693.
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Nov 29, 2003|
|Next Article:||THE BULLETIN.|