In our United Methodist denomination, we have three general rules. Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God. General rule number two is "do good." The rule has descriptions that go back to the earliest days of Methodism, before it was ever called Methodism. It was called the United Societies, and it was some college students who each had all these different opinions. They came from different church backgrounds. They were kind of radical, really. They thought that even with all their differences, they could be united into a holy club that would study God's word, that would encourage each other to live up to whatever standards that they themselves had reached about the gospel, to live up to the rules that they each made for themselves, and to encourage and strengthen each other in their own faith. They thought that just might work.
The door was wide open to anyone who didn't want to fear God's wrath anymore, anyone who was serious about following Christ, anyone who wanted to live in peace and harmony with their neighbor, to live out their relationship with Christ. To them they said, "Give me your hand," regardless of whatever all these other differences in lifestyle and beliefs and everything else might be. For them as for us, it has always been a struggle, then as it is now, to figure out how we can get along with each other in that kind of an environment. But there were these three expectations agreed to by all who wanted to participate, and that's not new. That comes from the Bible. That comes from the Gospel.
Jesus said to one woman, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more." There was an expectation that came with that free forgiveness. He told a parable about somebody that was invited to a wedding. Everybody was invited. Anybody and everybody, doors wide open, but one guy was reprimanded because of his attire. He had accepted the invitation, but he didn't really have any respect for what everybody was actually doing there. There are some other examples, too, that are given in the Bible about the expectations that come with accepting the free invitation of Jesus.
Looking into several of the stories and parables, you'll see that in Christ the doors are wide open. But if you're going to continue with us, there are some expectations that you take this seriously, that you respect what we're doing, and that you are intentional about your faith. That was what these early Methodists did. They put in writing their expectation that all who chose to unite with them "should continue to evidence their desire of salvation... by doing good."