In my recent article for the Covenant Discipleship Connection, I wrestled with a thought that I have had rattling around in my mind for awhile now: Doing is harder than knowing. This may seem obvious. But it seems to go against many of the experiences I have had in the church and the academy. From an early age I remember hearing things like, “knowledge is power.” Which like most cliches, has a good deal of truth to it. In church, the idea often seemed to be that the key to mature Christianity was mastering the content of the Bible.
Lest you misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that either reading the Bible or education are unimportant. What I am suggesting is that we sometimes overemphasize the importance of knowledge and underemphasize the importance of putting what we have learned into practice. This may be most obvious in Christianity. We often seem anxious to learn more about our faith, believing that the reason we are not “better” Christians is because we don’t know enough. We sometimes seem to think that the reason we are not more faithful is because we don’t know what faithfulness is.
And yet it seems to me that it is not all that difficult to know what faithfulness in the Christian life looks like. Jesus said that the greatest Commandment was to love God and neighbor. John Wesley outlined an approach to keeping these commandments known as the “General Rules.” In the General Rules, Wesley had three rules that he believed would guide Methodists towards deeply committed discipleship. First, those who want to love God and neighbor should do no harm. Second, they should do all the good that they can. And finally, they should attend upon the ordinances of God, or practice the means of grace. These practices are: praying, reading scripture, receiving the Lord’s Supper, fasting. Wesley also often talked about the importance of watching over one another in love for growth in the Christian life.
In many ways, that is what someone who is already a Christian needs to know about how to practice their faith. Knowing what to do is not all that hard. Doing this, however, is much more difficult.
Charles Wesley argued for the importance of “uniting… knowledge and vital piety.” This, it seems to me, is a key emphasis that Methodists ought to reclaim, and with a sense of urgency. The information that we give and receive in our churches, should always lead to transformation. The goal of the Christian life is not to know what to do. The goal of the Christian life is to allow ourselves to be transformed by God’s grace so that we do what we know we should – so that our beliefs are consistent with our actions.