Thursday, July 10, 2014

Theologian Thursday: Wesley on The Secret of Perfection

John Wesley
Jesus of Nazareth was perfect -- sin-free -- and we are supposed to be like him (1st Letter of John 2.6, Gospel of Matthew 11.29, and 1st Letter of Peter 2.21 - 24). But how can we possibly become perfect like that? How can we fallible and, frankly, very weak humans become holy, just as Jesus was? There must be a way because Jesus himself ordered his students to be perfect (Matthew 5.48) and the Apostle Peter wrote that we must be holy (1st Peter 1.14 - 16).

Yes, God very kindly forgives our sins, but that's not what we're talking about here. How can our deeds, our words, and our very motivations become perfect and holy -- or as close to it as possible in this life, before the resurrection happens?

Many Jesus-followers down through the ages have thought that the secret lies in a strict, rigorous, austere life of self-denial and discipline. John Wesley, our guest theologian for today, believed that himself in his younger days. And throughout his life he was one of the most disciplined, self-controlled men you could ever meet, if you ever read about his life. But Wesley came to realize that strict austere rigor or adherence to a list of rules does not, and cannot, make you holy.

So how do you live a life that is "perfect as your father in Heaven is perfect?" How do we become like a holy God... a God who defines himself as love (1st John 4.8, 16)?

Here according to Wesley is the secret.

What is then the perfection of which man is capable while he dwells in a corruptible body? It is the complying with that kind command, "My son, give me thy heart." It is the "loving the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind." This is the sum of Christian perfection: It is all comprised in that one word, Love. 
 The first branch of it is the love of God: And as he that loves God loves his brother also, it is inseparably connected with the second: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:" Thou shalt love every man as thy own soul, as Christ loved us. "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets:" These contain the whole of Christian perfection.

John Wesley
On Perfection

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