Do No Harm
"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way" - 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Today's devotion is offered by Bishop Sally Dyck. She sent this out earlier this week as part of her weekly note to the Northern Illinois Conference. With Governor Pritzker adding another month to Illinois' Stay-At-Home order, this insistence on perseverance is very appropriate. "Most United Methodists know Bishop Reuben Job’s paraphrase of Wesley’s General Rules: do no harm, do good and stay in love with God. Many times people stumble over the fact that Wesley put 'do no harm' first. Shouldn’t you just jump to doing good?
I think this coronavirus has offered us an opportunity to see how 'do no harm' comes first. One of the best ways to do no harm these days is to practice social distancing, to shelter in place, and to be considerate of others at the grocery store or out on the street by keeping a distance.
Do no harm is the stage we’re still in as a church. It seems like every couple of days I have to choose between doing no harm and allowing people to do good. I have to remind people that they can’t hold their usual food programs because it’s not safe for them to prepare the food and they can’t keep social distance as they do, much less as they hand it out.
I have to say no to services such as weddings in churches. I have to tell clergy and churches alike that you put yourselves and others at risk by trying to produce worship services in sanctuaries with others present, musicians or technicians. I still hear reports that some clergy are handing out communion without practicing any form of social distancing and others are wanting to call on parishioners door to door.
Doing no harm means we can’t do the things we’re called to do: provide the services of the church in Jesus’ name! Yes, it goes against our grain! But we’re in the stage of doing no harm…no exceptions! We’ve got to flatten the curve and we do that by doing no harm!
And then we’ll be able to do good again. We’ll be able to provide ministry to those in need, care in a more personal way, and share the sacraments of the church. I can’t wait for the day we’re able to do good again in relation to some of these services of the church! But as the governor of California said, “There’s no light switch here,” meaning all of a sudden we’re back doing what we used to do. “It’s more like a dimmer switch,” meaning that it will be gradual and perhaps different in various places. I pray that this time of doing no harm will increase our desire, creativity, and energy to do good when we can!
The third rule is to stay in love with God. Which means we use this time to grow in our spiritual practices and love for God and one another. Doesn’t it seem like many things that irked and divided us all seem so 'pre-coronavirus'? I don’t mean that we don’t have differences any more but I do hope that we’ll stay in love with God by putting the preciousness of life in perspective in all that we do and say."
Bishop Sally Dyck