The American Revolution and The Wesleyan Way: An Election Reflection

I have been a voter since I turned 18 but I have been a student of our history and government since I can remember.  My mom and dad would take my sister and I to historic sites and battlefields.  In grade school, I walked the decks of the USS Constitution and threw “tea” over the side of a ship in Boston Harbor.  I have been to Valley Forge and later, to Monticello.  I would visit Shiloh Battlefield and have walked the fields of Gettysburg.   Today, one of the most significant books on leadership for me is “The Founding Fathers on Leadership,” by Donald T. Phillips.  In it, his quotes are numerous as our founders were very observant and wrote extensively.  One quote has long resonated with me from Samuel Adams, “A state is never free but when each citizen is bound by no law whatever that he has not approved of.”  Powerful words.

They are words that both build pride but cut through pridefulness.  While they were words that addressed oppression, they were and remain words that would address the oppression felt by minorities who were denied that same voice.  But the founders were wise enough to craft a legacy in our nation and Constitution which would allow for people to make a way for all to be free, even if there might be some struggle along the way.

On the other side of the “pond,” another revolutionary of a different sort was advocating for a different freedom.  In the Rev. John Wesley, the Gospel of Jesus found a new and passionate voice whose words and heart for God, prevented revolution in Great Britain.  It was (and remains) a message of grace that would cross the Atlantic and in Francis Asbury, find a champion who would lead the spread of Methodism in the new nation.  

What Wesley understood was a person must indeed be free, fully, so they might then fully respond, freely, to the grace and gift of salvation found by giving one's faith and life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Wesley struggled with the revolution taking place in the colonies but came to understand the significance.  Though he could not prevent the revolution, what he lived and taught would change the heart of England.

Just as I keep the founding father’s lessons near, I also keep the Works of John Wesley close by in my office.  While traveling on horseback, Wesley read and wrote often. While preaching in England, on October 6, 1774, John Wesley wrote:

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:

1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy,

2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and

3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

Consider these “Leadership Lessons of John Wesley,” if you will, that challenge us in our day to act as Jesus might to others who we might disagree with.  We might disagree without being “disagreeable” people.  Some might consider Wesley’s three points, an application of Jesus’ command to “love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44), but are they really my enemy or the neighbor I am called to love into the Kingdom of God? 


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