KC: Personal salvation, social salvation, social action, social justice: Wesley has each of these in his overall theology, and each has its proper place, but Wesley also made some important value judgments that I think we need to hear today. For example, if you take a look at Wesley’s sermon, “On Visiting the Sick,” he talks about ministering to people in the love of God. He counseled that the first thing we should do for the poor is not simply send money; we must go where they are. We must fellowship with them, break bread with them. We should ask, “Do they have enough food? Do they have enough fuel? Do they have enough clothing?” The maintenance needs of the poor have to be met first. Then, Wesley says, we must minister to their souls: “Friend, come up higher. Having ministered to their bodies, now minister to their souls.” Wesley uses this language in several places, not simply in the sermon “On Visiting the Sick.” He talks about the maintenance needs of the poor as well as the spiritual needs. Wesley says both are important ministries, but he then reminds us that ministering to the soul is the most important.
This needs to be heard today. The most important thing about the poor is not their economic condition, however severe it is, but that they are beings created in the image and likeness of God and made for the love of God. And they can know this through one who ministers, not simply to their bodies, but also to their souls in a way that no social worker could ever do. Wesley was not afraid of making those kinds of value judgments. I’ve seen people take the penultimate and make it ultimate. The maintenance needs of the poor are chronologically prior; they are the very first things we should attend to. However, they aren’t of ultimate value in Wesley’s thinking because there are more important things than what we eat, what we drink, what we wear, and Wesley is very clear on that.