The Path We Take
Herein lies the challenge to the Church of the Nazarene. If the Church as a whole has to a large degree failed to lead the way and make the path clear, then our church — which claims to have championed the cause of man’s salvation — is now definitely responsible. This means that around the world the banners of our Zion must mark the path with certainty, calling men from the ways that end in confusion to the way that ends in eternal triumph.
It means not only that we shall teach man about the path of the just that shines more and more unto the perfect day, but that we shall also exemplify the principles thereof by conduct that identifies that way. One of our major responsibilities is a life and conduct consistent with the path that we take. We would not place conduct above sound doctrine and the declaration of that doctrine. However, we do insist that the proclamation of sound doctrine must result in holy living. Otherwise our ministry is in vain, and its promotion becomes futile and confusing. There has always been an unmistakable relationship between the way men conduct themselves and what they teach and believe.
This is most emphatic and logical upon the part of those commonly called holiness people. Those branches of the Church which maintain high standards of personal experience have a correspondingly high level of ethics. When a church does not major in experiential religion, there is no demand for ethics above the level of the average moral requirements of the world. But when, on the other hand, men are challenged to take the way of the New Testament, the demand for repentance and a consequent change of their pattern of conduct becomes imperative. We readily recall the words of John the Baptist as many came to him, inquiring the way and asking for baptism at his hands. “And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none . . . . Exact no more than that which is appointed . . . . Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8-13).
In other words, the profession of repentance and consequent forgiveness of sins, then as now, implied a changed ethical standard of living. Likewise we read that, if one claims the experience of holiness, the level of his living will be consistent, particularly in regard to his spirit and his attitudes. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God; ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom. 6:22). “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”(Titus 2:11-14). The obligations of consistent ethics and holy living are evident in the path that we take as a church.
We fully realize that the discriminations we make as being consistent with the path we take are so foreign to the average understanding of the world that they often seem strange even to the point of repulsion. Nonetheless, if we will point the way to the path of God, we must walk the highway of holiness, whereon is nothing that is unclean. And as we do so, now and then others will be attracted to this way and find for themselves rest for their souls.
So important, then, do we concede ethics to be that we have painstakingly and deliberately written into our official church Manual explicit directions which we call our General Rules. It logically follows that whoever would carry our banner and walk the way with us will gladly accept this position as an accurate expression of our collective conscience, bringing their lives into conformity with this position. So, after all, when the people called Nazarenes walk in unity and harmony in the path we have marked out, the impact of their collective living will have no small effect and influence throughout the world. Thus men will find the path that leads to life instead of wandering on a broad way that leads to destruction. You may recall that it was the almost strange and curious conduct of John and Charles Wesley along with their associates that caused them early to be called Methodists. And do not forget that it was this very power and influence of example that bulwarked their preaching of experiential religion, challenging men from the path of sin to the path of God and meeting England’s moral need in one of her historical crises.
And so we remind you that the path we take has its proper emphasis on a godly walk that is to be clearly exemplified by a consistency of conduct within proper scriptural limits. One has but to read the General Rules of the Church of the Nazarene to understand the import of what I write. With this clear emphasis is added the importance of a united consistency throughout the church, not only avoiding confusion among ourselves but also making our position strong and influential. Let no one ever say to you that the rules of the church which declare our position regarding ethics and general conduct are incidental. The integrity of our position, once violated at this point, will eventually demoralize the entire structure of the church we love.