Once asking his mother for a definition of sin, John Wesley received a response fit for theology books. “Take this rule,” Susanna Wesley wrote to John. “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”(1)
In a world that vehemently rejects the depravity of humankind, and much less desires a definition for a word deemed prehistoric and intolerant, what can we glean from her careful words? I believe we can glean much, though the thought I suggest is simple.
Among the notions of the business world runs a common thread of thought: no successful corporate entity exists for long without a mission statement. Any business that seeks to organize itself always determines a final goal by which all distractions are judged and removed. In a sense, Mrs. Wesley defined sin as anything that distracts you from your ultimate mission in life. In our attention-deficit disordered culture, distractions abound. But you will never understand what a distraction is until you clearly enunciate your final goal. Have you defined that goal for your life?
When Boris Becker was interviewed after his second Wimbledon victory, he was asked a simple question. Noting the tennis pro had overcome much to achieve a goal many can only dream of accomplishing, the reporter asked, “What is your greatest challenge in life?” Becker answered quickly. His greatest challenge, he said, was to keep from committing suicide.
In his words is a careful warning. We must choose our goals carefully. If when we accomplish our goals, we find our lives still lacking, it may have been a worthy goal, but it was not a goal worthy of defining our life’s purpose. It was not meant to be our final goal.
When a news reporter asked another one of our athletic heroes why he chose to become a Christian, Deion Sanders spoke about the night his team won the Super Bowl. It was after all of the interviews and victory photos had been taken. He had just finished ordering a new car. And as he sat there, he suddenly realized that every goal he had ever attempted had now been reached. The mere thought of this made him uneasy. The empty and dejected part of him would never be filled with fame or accomplishments. Turning to Christ, he cried for wholeness.
In a hymn written after the death of a friend, John Wesley sings of a life unobscured by lesser goals than this.
Servant of God, well done!
Thy glorious warfare’s past;
The battle’s fought, the race is won,
And thou art crowned at last.
When your mission statement in life is a relationship with God, you will find there is no greater purpose, nothing that gives your life more significance. Then to his glory you will say of your goals: “I can accomplish all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
(1) Letters of Susanna Wesley, June 8, 1725.