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Malachi 4:1-2a

This passage from Malachi seems pretty straightforward. And it is. The day of judgment pictured in these words give strong warning to those who do not do God’s will. Like in a refiner’s fire, those who are “arrogant” and “doing evil” will be burned away. But Christ, the “sun of righteousness,” brings health and strength and delight and joy and safety and security to those who are faithful, to those who are “revering [God’s] name.”

There is warning. And there is hope.

This fits perfectly well within the eschatological hope that John Wesley preached. Many contemporary pastors and churches want to focus on either hell-fire and damnation or an almost naïve optimism, bereft of any judgment. Wesley, however, saw both emphases in Scripture. He believed wholeheartedly in the reality of grace and that God would create a new heaven and a new earth. But he didn’t hold back from warning persons about judgment and punishment. Neither should we.

Sin always has consequences. It separates us from God, from others, and even from our true selves, from whom we are created and called to be. We should not sin. But should we find ourselves separated from God for all eternity I don’t know that we should blame our sin. After all, our sin has been paid for. It was atoned for while we were yet sinners. Our problem is that we are still “arrogant.” We are self-righteous. We refuse to “revere God’s name” and surrender to God’s Lordship over us. We neither admit our need for a Savior nor attempt to follow Him.

This is part of why Wesley held together both personal salvation and social engagement. He wanted all persons to hear and respond to the convicting and converting truths of God’s Word. And yet he stressed that such true conversion must produce faith, hope, and love in the life of the disciple. As he wrote, “The necessary fruit is the love of our neighbor, of every soul which God hath made.”

It would be difficult to find places where this prophetic and evangelistic call are more clear in Wesley’s preaching than in his preaching to the poor. As the cities in Wesley’s day grew, a new class of urban poor was created. The Industrial Revolution was in full force, yet many persons were victimized by such industrialization. Wesley’s ministry among coal miners, for example, was tireless as he worked for both their material and spiritual well-being. As Howard Snyder has pointed out, Wesley “opened free dispensaries, set up a kind of credit union, and established schools and orphanages. His ministry branched out to include lead miners, iron smelters, brass and copper workers, quarrymen, shipyard workers, farm laborers, prisoners, and female industrial workers.” He brought the good news of salvation as well as the opportunity for fellowship and leadership development, raising up persons to guide his small groups.