Going On to Perfection. . .United Methodist Style
I love The United Methodist Church. To be sure, the church has its faults and foibles, as do I. But I still love the church. In fact, I believe that the church is—or should be—on its way toward what John Wesley called “perfection.”
John Wesley’s view of Christian perfection got him in a lot of trouble in his own day. Indeed, it has been a source of contention and occasionally comedic relief ever since. Candidates for ordination in the United Methodist tradition are always asked, “Are you going on to perfection?” That question is followed by the inquiry, “Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?” Each time, the answer is to be in affirmative, answered simultaneously with boldness and humility.
What is true for clergy should also be true for laity. Each of us is called, invited, challenged, and encouraged to “go on to perfection” and to “expect to be made perfect in love in this life.”
The same thing is true, in my judgment, throughout The United Methodist Church. At every level, we should be of the conviction that we are “going on to perfection” and that we “expect to be made perfect in love in this life.”
Now, the perfection under consideration is not a perfection of knowledge or accomplishment. Instead, it is a perfection of intention and relationship. The key is that we are called to seek “perfection in love,” which speaks to our relationship with God and our neighbor.
As we anticipate General Conference in a few weeks, we enter into the process of “going on to perfection.” The temptation will be to settle for improving the language of the Book of Discipline or doing nothing more than advancing our agenda (or at least opposing those with whom we disagree).
However, at our best, we are called to “go on to perfection,” not in terms of disciplinary detail or legislative accomplishments but in terms of loving God—and our neighbor—more fully, more completely, more purposefully, more transparently.
In all that is to come—whether for the general church, particular congregations, or individual believers—I hope and pray that, together, we may share in the journey of “going on to perfection.”
Grace and Peace,
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