By Hal Knight
What is “true religion” for Wesley? In his sermon “Walking by Sight and Walking by Faith” he describes it as “no less than living in eternity, and walking in eternity,” and thereby “walking in the love of God and man.” It is to dwell in God and for God to dwell on us. “This alone,” he says, “is setting the crown upon Christ’s head, and doing his ‘will on earth, as it is done in heaven.’”
So, what does Wesley mean by living and walking in eternity? He does not mean constantly thinking about a heavenly afterlife, while ignoring all that is around us. Instead, it is in a way to enter a new world through faith in Jesus Christ, to become in the here and now a citizen of the kingdom of God, to partake in the present of the life of the age to come. It is loving as God loves, doing God’s will on earth. This in its fullest sense is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that persons and churches receive this new life and begin to walk in eternity. We continue to grow as disciples as through the Spirit we abide in Christ through prayer, scripture, sacraments, Christian community and serving others.
How does walking and living in eternity enable us to be disciples? Let me suggest three ways.
First, we see the world in a new light and people in a new light, not as the world sees them but as God sees them. We see everyone as loved by God, created in the divine image, and as persons for whom Christ died. As a result, we also see how our world today falls grievously short of the life of the kingdom of God as exemplified especially in the life of Jesus. To see the gap between what God desires and the way things are gives direction for our discipleship: We join with God in actively seeking to bring our world more in line with God’s loving will.
Second, we begin to long for what God longs for; a world without hunger, injustice, despair, pain and broken relationships, a world not driven by desires for gain, possessions, advancement or esteem, but by compassion for others and care of the earth, a world united by love. In short, we long for a world caught up in the beauty, majesty and love of God, such that it reflects that love throughout. This provides our motivation as disciples.
Third, we begin to listen to God. We turn to God in prayer and seek the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. Our concern is not to enlist God for our agendas but to sign on to the God’s agenda. This is the primary way we come to see with new eyes, be motivated by new desires, and have hearts governed by love. It is also the way God leads us beyond our usual ways of thinking and judging and brings our lives more in accord with the wisdom of God.
May God give us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to love, enabling us to be ever more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.