A question for my brothers and sisters who claim an ongoing connection with Wesleyan theology: Do you affirm the doctrine of Christian Perfection?
Huge numbers of Christians do not. As I understand Lutheran and Calvinism, they reject the doctrine. Everyday non-reflective American Christianity does as well. Even the early Methodist movement in John Wesley’s day resisted the doctrine.
Do we who sing the final verse of Charles’ hymn that provides the title of this post, join the critics or the hopeful teachers of this doctrine?
Do we believe that men and women can be made perfect in love?
Of course, to answer that we need to be clear about what we mean. Christian perfection does not mean we are free of ignorance or weakness, so we still might harm others or fail in our duty as a result. Neither does being perfect in love mean we feel no impulse or temptation to sin. That we will not be free of while dwelling in this house of clay, but Christ has broken the power of sin. We can overcome sin if we rely on Christ’s strength and not our own. We can love with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We can have the same love that Christ poured out for us pour out for others. Love can be the center of all we do and say.
At least, that is what Christian Perfection claims. And it does not claim these things merely as some higher or better way of being a Christian. It believes that we can be made perfect in love because it believes that without holiness no one will see the Lord. It answers the question “How do sinful humans become holy enough to live with God for eternity?” By the grace of God, we are made holy in heart and life.
Here has been my experience. It is easier to sin and ask for forgiveness than to grow in holiness. It is easier to say “I cannot change” than it is to put to death the things of the flesh.
So those strains of Christianity that deny Christian Perfection come up with doctrines explaining how unholy people arrive in heaven.
Are we among them?
Or do we sing our own hymns with integrity?