These are the words which John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, used to describe his spiritual encounter with God on the evening of 24 May 1738. That spiritual heart-warming experience took place in a small group gathering somewhere along Aldersgate Street, London. Methodists celebrate 24 May each year as Aldersgate Day.
We are a people called Methodists, and I am happy to be called a Methodist. But what is a Methodist? John Wesley gave us his answer in one of his sermons entitled “The Character of a Methodist.” He began by describing several central characteristics of a Methodist, and then said: (and here let me paraphrase):
“If should say, ‘Why, these are only the common fundamental principles of Christianity which you have listed!’
I reply: Indeed. This is the truth. I know they are … and I would to God that you, and everyone, would also know that I, and all who like me are called Methodists, do vehemently refuse to be distinguished from anybody by anything but the common principles of all Christianity.
I preach the plain, old Christianity, renouncing and detesting all other marks of distinction.”1
In other words, Wesley said that the fundamental characteristics of Methodists should be the fundamental characteristics of all Christians, plain and simple.
So let me say again that I am happy to be called a Methodist, for I am happy to be called a Christian.
But what does it mean to be a Christian? There are different meaningful ways one can answer that question. My favourite answer is to say that to be a Christian is to commit oneself to what Jesus Christ said was the most important thing in life and all of Holy Scripture: to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39).
I wish us all a blessed Aldersgate Day this May, and I pray that we may renew our commitment to be Methodist Christians who love God with all our “strangely warmed” hearts by loving our neighbours as we love ourselves.
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.” (Galatians 5:14 NIV)
1 J. Wesley, “The Character of a Methodist” (para.17 in the Thomas Jackson edition of The Works of John Wesley, 1872.)
|Bishop Dr Gordon Wong was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2020.
He served as President of the Trinity Annual Conference from 2012-2020.