“Do No Harm!”
“For you were called to freedom, brothers, and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:15)
“Hey, Jenny! Do you have flowering plants in your garden?” Someone who knew I enjoyed gardening asked me. “Well, yes, I do,” I said. “I started a flower garden last year, but it didn’t go well. I hope it goes better this year.” As I do with my vegetables, I watered my flowering plants every morning, hoping they would flower this year. For weeks on end, whenever I had time, I would run to my flower garden to look at them to see if they were blooming yet. Finally, I have flowers in my garden. I was so happy to see them. Now I catch myself smiling when I’m on my way home, as I look forward to seeing my garden.
One day, while I was drinking a cup of coffee on my deck, looking at the flowers, I suddenly noticed that the lawn around the garden looked brown, like the grass was dying. It looked horrible. I felt bad, and I thought if the lawn were a nice green color, my flowers would look better. I grumbled about the grass to myself. It seemed weird because the lawn turned brown only around my flower garden. The next morning, I tried to water my flowers and walked through my lawn, bringing the water hose. Then I looked closely at the lawn around the flower garden. “Oh my Gosh!” I was so surprised. The area of the lawn that was brown was the path that I walked every morning to water my flowers. I realized that I was the one who damaged the lawn unknowingly and then complained about it.
Similarly, we may unknowingly cause harm to others, and we may judge them and what they do. Let us look around and make sure we aren’t causing harm because we are too self-focused on what we are passionate about, and therefore, we are missing opportunities to help and guide the people around us. By being more aware, we will do no harm to anyone, not even ourselves. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, suggested three simple rules Christians should keep: Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love with God. Most of us might experience the struggle to resolve complex and difficult issues in everyday life. And then, when we try to resolve the issues, it may cause harm to others or ourselves knowingly and unknowingly. However, if we keep the first simple step in our mind every moment, it leads us to a safe place to stand while the hard and faithful work of discernment is done. When we agree that we will not harm those we disagree with, conversation, dialogue, and discovery of new insight become possible. And then, “We can do everything in Jesus Christ, who empowers us” (Philippians 4:13).
Sometimes we wonder if it is possible to live in this complex and violent world without doing harm, if we should turn the other cheek to those who distort the truth by selective use of the facts of any given situation, if it is wise to do no harm to those who seek to harm us, our future, or our reputation, and if it is possible to speak the truth in love and gentleness when others seem to speak partial truth in anger and hatred. We face challenging moments on every path we walk. But, think of Jesus, his life, and his teachings. We are not alone. Every moment Jesus is there for us. Wesley said we are on the way to salvation, living in harmony with God, “by doing no harm, and by avoiding evil of every kind” (The Book of Discipline, 103).
Sometimes we cannot trust ourselves because we often lack grace and understanding. Frequently we do wrong and make matters worse. We make excuses for ourselves but condemn small things in others. Therefore, we should open our hearts, minds, and doors so that God can work in us, among us, and between us. If you are open, you will notice God’s works around you in small ways. It can sometimes be something as simple as a soft blowing wind, a shiny leaf seen in the sunshine, an unnamed flower in the field, your child or grandchild, and even your companion. In daily life, you may suddenly realize that God works for you. My gardening experience reminded me of how amazing God’s grace is and how God takes care of all of us with his steadfast and fair love. If we focus on His Word and His grace, we can all achieve our goals and do no harm. I watered my garden and the lawn was damaged, and the lawn has recovered even though it took some time. Let us do no harm so that we can make a better tomorrow.