It’s a rule that seems so simple, but in practice, isn’t. First… do no harm. Really. Before anything else, make sure you do this. Don’t even think about rule #2 or 3 until you have accepted and begun to practice this one.
Whoa, you say. Neglect doing good? Loving God? Well, no, but yes!
All our good deeds won’t add up to a person feeling loved and respected until we stop harming her. All the worship and the bible reading in the world isn’t worth anything until we put it into practice and actually work at not causing harm – to anyone or anything, at any time – this includes ourselves.
Strange words for a church leader, maybe, but if we would diligently practice Rule #1 – even to the exclusion of all else – the world (translate as God’s good creation) would be a better place than it is now. This is the way we live the greatest commandment to love the God with all our being, and our neighbors as ourselves (Mt 22:36-40).
There are so many ways we can practice Rule #1 – personally, as communities, and as nations. Still, it’s about now that questions begin to surface.
First, does one or another practice fit under Rule #1 or Rule #2? (Short answer: it’s usually both.)
Second, what if whatever you do will cause some harm – no matter how you act or how you refrain from acting? This is the big question. For much of our lives, this is unavoidable. Yet, if we’re serious about doing no harm we must consider the question. In everything we do. Because, frankly there’s harm in most of what we First World citizens do.
- Turn on the air-conditioning – and all our other life-enhancing “necessities” – and we blow off the top of a mountain and pollute to water of the neighbors living in Appalachia.
- Buy a Kids’ Meal and we contribute to ozone depletion (bovine gas), more plastic junk-toys, and fill our bodies with artificially contrived corn-and-soy products (not to mention the GMO factor).
- Shop, because, hey, that supports the economy. But what about our neighbors who work on farm or in factory to provide what we buy who don’t earn a living wage? Who can’t afford what we throw away?
First, do no harm. The more we consider this rule, the harder we find it is to practice it. Anyone who’s studied Jesus’ ministry has discovered that he was a truly radical leader, calling us to behave far better than we would on our own.
John Wesley learned this. He echoed Jesus, calling us to practice it.
You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!
Galatians 5: 13-15