The Theology of John Wesley in Two Words


First a story. Then we will get to the two words.

Training for Love

I woke up today remembering my recent lunch outing at the Baja Burrito Kitchen in Nashville, Tennessee. The place was crawling with hungry patrons with every table filled and a line running out the door. The stress of the burrito staff was palpable.  My inaugural visit to this much-acclaimed eatery would be unforgettable on at least two counts.

I worked my way to the register with my tray now overfilled with tacos, beans, rice, chips and guacamole.  Why I felt the need to go to the free salsa bar I will never know, but I did. I carefully propped my tray on the ledge of the counter, holding it in place by leaning forward. After sloppily filling multiple tiny plastic cups with each of the multiple varieties of salsa, I made the fatal decision to try and lean across to the soda fountain to fill my cup with ice and diet coke.

Did I mention that I had my tray carefully propped on the ledge of the salsa bar counter?

What happened next was like a car wreck in s-l-o-w- m-o-t-i-o-n. As I leaned over toward the soda fountain and pressed my cup against the diet coke dispenser, I felt the tray tilt forward. Chips began to rain to the floor, then the fishy tacos, then the beans and rice and finally the cup of guacamole fell face down on the floor. And then the over-filled diet coke in my left hand came crashing down as I dove to save the last taco. Train wreck. Yard sale. All was lost, save the salsa now running down my pant leg. I felt like a third grader again in the school cafeteria. Everyone in the place—all eyes were on me. What happened next, though, stunned me.

As I descended to the ground to see what I might salvage of my lunch, an Asian man rushed out from behind the counter. He snapped up the tray and in broken English, over and over he said, “Don’t worry! We fix it! Not a problem!” He handed me a rag to wipe off the salsa. As I tried to convince him we could salvage one of the tacos, he said, “No! No! No! We get new one.” He cleaned up the mess, re-filled my order and sent me on my way to the table where he would bring me my tacos.

I went from feeling terribly exposed to being warmly embraced. Right there, in the middle of the crazy, chaotic Baja Burrito Kitchen I experienced nothing short of the love of God.

So you may be thinking, “But how could you say this was the love of God when you don’t even know if this guy was a Christian?” How about 1 John 4, “God is love and whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them.” And remember who Jesus picked as his primary exemplar on the point of loving your neighbor: the Samaritan outsider. (Please resist the temptation to read into this what I am not trying to say.)

So you’re probably thinking, “The love of God? This is just good customer service training.” B.I.N.G.O.! It’s got me asking, so why aren’t we training our people to respond like this or our children or. . . ? When it comes to “love” we tend to keep it pretty general, but it’s amazing just how specific Jesus was willing to get. The Apostle Paul made it crystal clear.

So what is the telos, or end game of our discipleship? Biblical literacy? Mastery of “truth?” Is it maturity, and if so what on earth does that mean? Better behavior? Is it to be like Jesus, and if so how in particular? Or is the goal of our discipleship just to make more disciples?

What about love? Tweet this!

The Significance of Wesley’s Voice

This is why Wesley’s voice is so important for today’s church. Like few others before him and even fewer after, he thought discipleship through to its ultimate goal: the love of God shed abroad in the heart and practiced extravagantly in the world. He is chided for not having produced a “systematic” theology. Might it be because he was too busy developing a theology for systematic transformation? Yes, he chose the unfortunate term of “perfection” to brand his approach. But honestly, all he was talking about was the pure unadulterated holy love of God completely filling up a human being and leaving room for nothing else. Who doesn’t want that? But who is really, truly aiming at it?

“The only thing that counts is faith working itself out in love.” Gal. 5:6b

Bringing It Down to Two Words

HolyLoveOne day I asked the noted John Wesley scholar, Ken Collins, how he would concisely summarize the Wesleyan theological vision. He said, “I can do it in two words: Holy Love.”

John Wesley took the great message and movement of the 16th century reformation to its only necessary conclusion. The Reformers gave us Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria.

John Wesley gave us Sola Sanctus Caritas. (That’s my Latin – not his. Translation: Only Holy Love!) Tweet this!

Sola Sanctus Caritas! Only Holy Love! It’s becoming my banner and battle cry as one who would aspire to be a New Wesleyan in a still new century.


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  1. […] Sola Sanctus Caritas! Only Holy Love! It’s the beautiful merger of grace and truth; the beginning, middle and end of the Gospel. It’s the great commandment that undergirds the great commission. It’s the metric of the Kingdom; profound love for God and profound love for  people. Sola Sanctus Caritas! It’s the banner and battle cry of all who would sow extravagantly with us for a great awakening in a new century. […]

  2. 1John 4:8 “God is Love”. Would that we Christians could out love our pagan friends, seems the reverse is happening often. May I recommend a ‘sit down’ waiter served restaurant for you in the future my friend.