The text every Methodist should preach

The Lectionary brings us this week to one of the iconic verses in Wesleyan theology.

Matthew 5:48 tells us: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The verse comes from the gospel reading for this week, Matthew 5:38-48, and its context provides the meaning of the term “perfection” for Wesleyans. We are not called to be without error. We do not expect to never cause harm by accident or ignorance or misunderstanding. But we strive for – we hope to be going on to – perfection in love.

Perfection was certainly one of the most misunderstood doctrines in Wesley’s day. It is still controversial, even among Methodists. If there was ever a week to talk about the doctrine of perfection, this is it.

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8 thoughts on “The text every Methodist should preach

  1. I actually just preached about this text in a sermon on Wesley’s three graces. I asked my congregation who believed in entire sanctification or the idea of perfection, no one raised their hand. Even after my explanation of what it truly means I still had people who came up to me later and said they weren’t sure about that idea. But I agree, we UMs should preach it more often.

    1. I think the doctrine of perfection is the ultimate test of our confidence in grace. Do we truly have an optimistic understanding of the power of God’s grace or do we remain trapped by what seems possible for mere humans to accomplish?

      It is easy for me to slip into doubts about this doctrine or even come up with reasons why it is not reasonable or important. But when I do that it is almost always a sign that my understanding of grace is being controlled by my understanding of my own limitations.

  2. I would rather call it ‘reaching your potential,’ but of course that would be another kind of perfection 😀

  3. Wesley taught that Christian perfection was the process of becoming fully the human being God created you to be, in the image of Christ. It is the transformation of your thinking, attitudes, and character into “the mind of Christ.” Perfection is, at its core, a heart so filled with love that love is its natural, habitual response to the world.

    Here’s a paragraph from Randy Maddox that beautifully summarizes Wesley’s confidence in the power of grace to transform the world and the human heart: “…Wesley was convinced that the Christian life did not have to remain a life of continual struggle. He believed that both Scripture and Christian tradition attested that God’s loving grace can transform our lives to the point where our own love for God and others becomes a ‘natural’ response. Christians can aspire to take on the disposition of Christ, and live out that disposition within the constraints of our human infirmities. To deny this possibility would be to deny the sufficiency of God’s empowering grace–to make the power of sin greater than that of grace.”

  4. This is the doctrine that used to set off the Wesleyan denominations. It is not only the UMC that are ignoring it.

    A good reminder.

    Grace and peace.

  5. I am Sunil from Srilanka, I am Methodist Minister I like to friends with you,

    1. Sunil, I am glad to have you a part of the Methodist blogging world. Please feel free to comment all you would like.

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