Christian perfection was a core value for John Wesley and the early Methodists. Christian perfection was ultimately about loving God and neighbors. Joel Green points out in Reading Scripture as Wesleyans, which I blogged about yesterday, that …
Wesley read Scripture with this aim in mind: to nurture love of God and love of neighbor. In the end, this is the theological context within which he practices biblical interpretation. (112)
This value carried over into the questions that ordinands have been asked for more than two centuries, which I posted a couple months ago (see also the follow-up post with the questions from 1784). After the first question (“Have you faith in Christ?”), the next three questions address Christian perfection. Question 2 asks, “Are you going on to perfection?” Question 3 follows up with, “Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?” And question 4 asks, “Are you earnestly striving after it?” (the original question was, “Are you groaning after it?”).
One could answer the first two questions fairly easily, but the third question leaves little wiggle room. The only way we will go on to perfection in love is by earnestly striving after it, by being intentional and disciplined in our pursuit of it.
In reflecting on these questions, my mind goes to Philippians 3 where the apostle Paul lists, and then writes off, his accomplishments. He adds …
12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. 15 So, all of us who are spiritually mature should think this way … (3.12-15, CEB)
That’s the attitude of one earnestly striving after perfection in love!
Are you going on to perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? Are you earnestly striving after it?