The “General Rules” of United Methodist Christians includes three basic principles which guide our practice of the spiritual life. John Wesley first proposed these in the mid-1700s as he began a number of small group meetings (called classes or societies) to encourage, spiritually develop and support his new Methodists. The three principles, each with some detailed instructions, are condensed and paraphrased here from our book of theology and order, The United Methodist Discipline:

First: by doing no harm: avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced;

Such as

  • Taking of the name of God in vain
  • Profaning of the day of the Lord
  • Drunkenness
  • Fighting, quarreling, brawling, returning evil for evil.
  • Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation.
  • Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us.
  • Doing what we know is not for the glory of God.
  • Softness and needless self-indulgence.

Second, by doing good: by being in every kind merciful after (our) power; as (we) have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and as for as possible to all: to their bodies by giving food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, by visiting or helping them that are sick or in prison…to their souls, by instructing, reproving or exhorting all we (converse) with…to fellow Christians by the means we have available.

Third, by using the means of grace: The means of grace are ways for us to experience God’s love for us. They are not ways to make ourselves better. Instead, they are designed to put aside our selfish nature so that God can make us better.

Examples include:

  • Public worship
  • Listening to the Scriptures read
  • Receiving the Lord’s Supper
  • Family and private prayer
  • Searching the Scriptures (in private study)
  • and Fasting or Abstinence