Wesley valued differences in pursuit of perfection
5/5/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
(UMNS) - For John Wesley, Christian perfection was all about "the pure
love of God and neighbor" - a love that can be strengthened by
disagreements or differences with others, a United Methodist theologian
Marjorie Suchocki took the denomination's bishops on a trek
through Wesley's book, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection at their
spring meeting, to mark this year's 300th anniversary of the birth of
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement. The international
council met April 28-May 2 in Addison, Texas.
Methodist needs to know what is in this book," said Suchocki, a Wesleyan
scholar at United Methodist-related Claremont (Calif.) School of
Theology. She said she wished every denominational church would study
and understand what is at the heart of United Methodism. "I would hope
that every Christian whatsoever would be pressing on to this kind of
Perfection, for Wesley, is "the pure love of God and
neighbor, loving God with all our heart and soul and loving neighbor as
ourselves," Suchocki said. She suggested that during ordination
ceremonies, instead of simply asking the ministerial candidates if they
are "going on to perfection," include a few words elaborating on this
understanding of perfection.
Wesley believed that people were
created with minds, emotions and bodies so that they should develop them
fully to the glory of God, and the glory of God is God's love, she
said. "Everything that is in your being is available to the service of
love," she said.
God intends for people to develop themselves to
whatever fullness is available, she said. She recalled a student of hers
who had cerebral palsy, who developed his physical body to the greatest
potential to the glory of God.
"It's for the sake of love, so
that you shall love with all that you are and not with some truncated
version of who you are," she said.
Wesley understood that the reason for salvation was to get on with the business of sanctification, she said.
mistakes is part of life, she said. "We can no more live without making
a mistake than we can live without breathing," she said. "Consequently,
we need Christ."
Suchocki noted that love is strengthened rather
than threatened by disagreements or differences of belief with others.
When one seeks to build muscle, one uses weights instead of a feather -
although the feather might feel nicer, she said. "That which helps you
grow in love most is when you encounter a little disagreement along the
She reminded the bishops of Wesley's admonition to watch
and pray continually against pride. "Pride for Wesley is the refusal to
learn from somebody else," she said. She quoted Wesley: "Yea, you have
need to be taught by the weakest preacher in London."
believed that everyone is a potential teacher, and he told the early
Methodists that they needed to learn even from those who disagreed with
them or who put them down, Suchocki said.
"We serve a God who is
the God of all creation, and if you dare think the blessed love of God
is circumscribed â€¦ that is a dangerous mistake," she said.
It is idolatry to think that one's thoughts are exactly the same as God's, she warned.
are necessary to the church of Jesus Christ because they push
Christians to challenge themselves, she said. "It is as theologically
important that there be theological diversity in the church as it is
that we should love one another."
Pressing on to Christian
perfection entails learning from those who are different, and responding
to differences not with verbal or physical bombs but as opportunities
for growth, she said.
"Are you pressing on to perfection?" she asked the bishops. "Oh, yes, thank God."
Back : News Archives 2003 Main
“We believe in God and in each other.”The people of The United Methodist Church
Still Have Questions?
If you have any questions Ask
Purchase a $20 buzzkill t-shirt and help save a life
Buy a t-shirt