Loving Grace-fully

 

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Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I devoured Albert C. Outler’s book Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit. This small tome should be required reading for every Christian following in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. We previously highlighted this little classic here. In three short chapters, he elucidates Wesley’s understanding of original sin and the “human flaw”; the person and work of Jesus Christ; and sanctification, or “holiness of heart and life.” When discussing Wesley’s doctrine of perfect love, or sanctification, or Christian perfection, which, Outler notes, “were various synonyms, in his [Wesley’s] vocabulary, for ‘holiness'”, he writes the following:

“…Our love of neighbor (if it ever becomes more than a benevolent feeling) follows from our love of God. Love of neighbor is a function of our concern to hallow all of life, in all of its occasions, great and small. It is our part in answering the Lord’s prayer, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…’ I’d feel easier with my pietist friends if their neighborly love were not so self-selective of their own kind. I’d feel easier about my activist colleagues if their neighborly love weren’t so often ruthless. The only love I’ve ever known that I’ve trusted and felt sustained by was from Godthrough men and women whose love was unselfish — i.e., people who have loved me grace-fully…It is grace-filled love that helps us become human and that nourishes our humanity.” 1

That word “hallow” stuck out to me. To hallow something means “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate.” If hallowing God’s name is a key function of the Lord’s Prayer, it follows that this informs how we treat our neighbors. This is not some sort of mushy, feel-good love – that benevolent feeling Outler noted. This is love that gets dirty, that lives in the everyday, that embraces all because everyone is precious in God’s sight.

Perhaps, as the anxiety and animosity heading into General Conference 2016 already seems to have ratcheted up (at least on social media, so take it for what it’s worth), we would do well to hallow each other. Can we truly look at the people with whom we have deep disagreements, and say, “I hallow you,” and mean it? May God’s grace allow us to do just that.

1. Outler, Albert. Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit., p. 69.

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