Rachel Held Evans writes what strikes me as her core argument about the way we read and use scripture. She makes some excellent observations and points.
I too need reminding that, for all my big talk about a “Christocentric hermeneutic,” more often than not, I’m following a “Rachelcentric hermeneutic” when I read the Bible, complete with my own biases, preferences, insecurities, and opinions guiding how I “pick and choose.” (Oh I can wield every Bible verse that challenges Calvinism like a knife, but I’d rather not talk about how I’m actually applying the Sermon on the Mount to my life or what I really think about enemy-love.)
(Don’t read only the quote above. It is one small piece of a longer post. But it is one piece that makes a good point. As I say, read the whole post.)
Given my interests, I find myself thinking about how John Wesley would respond to the arguments she makes.
Wesley was never one to shrink before the size of the gospel. He believed and taught that we could, in this life, be transformed by grace to the extent that the Sermon on the Mount does not become an impossible hurdle to clear. Indeed, the says the commands of God are “covered promises.” What he commands us to do he gives us the power to do.
In reading Evans’ post, I get a strong sense of her generosity of heart. I think Wesley the pastor would want to press us beyond gentleness with each other to zeal for holiness. That zeal would not eliminate gentleness. Indeed, we cannot be holy if we are not gentle, kind, humble, and meek. (Check the Sermon on the Mount for pointers there.) But in Wesley I find a search for something beyond and beneath acceptance of each other. There is a sense that my sins really, really matter. And so do yours. So we should take them seriously, the same way we respond to cancer or kidney failure.
I do think, however, that Wesley would agree with a large part of Evans’ argument: We spend too much time talking about the sins of others instead of dealing with our own sin.
And I think Wesley would approve of her final notion: We should put down our stones and share a table together. He called it a love feast.