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A Perfect Love

“Christian perfection is one of the most distinctive doctrines of the Wesleyan tradition. John Wesley preached and taught and fought for it most of his life” (9). It was and is, perhaps, the most controversial of Wesley’s doctrines. He received much criticism for his commitment to it. Christian perfection is not so much about the individual being perfect as it is about the “work of divine grace that, through faith in Jesus Christ, restores the human soul, damaged by sin, to wholeness…and maturity in faith and love” (10). Christian perfection is another way of describing the love of God that fills and transforms us by grace through faith.

As individuals, small groups, and congregations across our annual conference utilize the resources in A Perfect Love to study Wesley’s work, they will be challenged to consider how God might use even the tensions and divisions we are experiencing in our lives, our churches, and our nation to help us understand the extent of the love we are invited into that transforms us as it becomes our “sole guiding principle and power of life” (10).

This series is built around the book A Perfect Love: Understanding John Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, and includes:

  • Worship Helps for 5 Sundays
  • Sermon Seeds for 5 Sundays
  • Small Group Discussion Questions for 4 weeks
  • Weekly Videos by Bishop Palmer
     

Introduction

More often than not, life’s journey feels like one step forward, two steps back. “When people hear the words ‘Christian’ and ‘perfection’ together, the word ‘Impossible’ immediately jumps to mind”(9).

Key Verse: Matthew 5:48 (CEB)

“Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”


Key Idea

God’s prevenient grace pursues us; God’s justifying grace redeems us; and God’s sanctifying grace refines us that we might become a whole, complete human being made in the image of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.


Week 1

Key Verse: John 15:8 (CEB)

“My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.”


Key Idea

We were created by God for the sake of flourishing, of fully developing all our powers (intellectual, emotional, physical), of becoming a whole, complete human being made in the image of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is the perfect power of God’s perfect love that enables us to be all God created us to be. 


Week 2

Key Verse: Deuteronomy 6:5 (CEB)

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength.”


Key Idea

God’s version of perfection is not something to be achieved but to be received in a way that transforms.


Week 3

Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 12:27 (CEB)

“You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.”


Key Idea

“Deeply held disagreements become the occasion to exercise love by openness to learning from one another” (132).


Week 4

Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CEB)


Key Idea

Prayer activates our creative response to God’s grace, compels us to love those we disagree with, orients our whole life toward God, teaches us to rely on God in all things, weaves us together as the body of Christ, and is made visible through our actions of serving God and neighbor.

Daily Reading Guide

Follow along with the four weeks of reading and reflection with your copy of A Perfect Love. For those who wish to dive even deeper may decide to take advantage of the resources found in the book for an 8-week study.


As we read Wesley’s account of Christian perfection alongside the theological reflections by Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, we are reminded that our faith is a holy calling. John Wesley holds Methodists to the highest standard of grace, humility, and desiring nothing but God. He calls us to continue to grow in love and unity in Christ even when we find it difficult, even when we don’t agree, and even when we cannot find Christ in the other. In fact, he challenges us, this is when we should become most humble and remember that we need each member of the body to help us experience the perfect love of God.

 

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