We all have choices – where to live, where to work, what to drive – but chance often plays the starring role in our choice of what church to attend. After making my first choice by chance, I later confirmed my choice for the United Methodist Church for a few specific reasons. While we share certain basic beliefs with all Christians*, there are a few distinctives about Methodism identified by our founder, John Wesley:
GRACE: God’s love and mercy are given to us through his grace. We can’t do anything to earn it and nothing we do makes us lose it, though we can choose to refuse it. Even when we don’t have a relationship with God, he still gives us his grace that works in us to help us understand that our relationship with God is broken because of those things we do that separate us from God, called sin. Because of his great love, God sent his son, Jesus, to communicate his grace directly. When we accept that grace through Jesus, he makes our relationship with God right again because our sins are forgiven, called salvation or justification or being saved or conversion. It means we have chosen to go a different way than we did before. Then God’s grace continues to help us through the rest of our lives as we learn how to become more like Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit, learning to love God and to love others in ways that bring wholeness to us and to others.
ATONEMENT: While Jesus was here on earth, he died on a cross for us. Because Jesus was both fully human and fully God at the same time, his death accomplished what no one else could – we can receive forgiveness for the sins we commit because Jesus already took the punishment that should have been ours, death. Called atonement (Or at-one-ment), through it Jesus makes us right with God.
GOOD WORKS: We do good things for others out of thankfulness to God for what he has done in our lives through Jesus. Our good works are not required for our salvation but rather are a result of our choosing to go a different way than we did before we accepted Jesus. When he was here on earth, Jesus chose to hang out with those who were the outcasts of society at that time, such as widows, orphans, sick people, poor people and even those who would not believe in him. So, we do the same types of things, helping those who need someone to come alongside them on the journey of life.
* For more information about the common beliefs all Christians share, click here.
Visit www.umc.org for more information about what United Methodists believe and how we live our beliefs in the world.