Trusting in God’s love

Sally Oakes's picture

There is a series of questions asked of persons to be ordained (ordinands) in the United Methodist Church. They include things like, “have you belief in God?” and “Do you find the precepts of the United Methodist Church to be consistent with Christian doctrine?” There are a number of others, but that’s the gist. However, there are two that stand out to me: “Are you going on to perfection?” and “Do you expect to be made perfect in love?”

This is an often misunderstood concept. What it is not is a legal system to abide by the rules perfectly. It’s also not a human- initiated or human- based effort, as if we just try hard enough, we can achieve perfection.

Rather, Christian perfection is a progression of growth in Christian love, where our wills fall by the wayside and God’s will increasingly takes over. We are going on to perfection with the expectation that by relinquishing our wills to God’s will, God’s will will increasingly take over. It does not mean we become like God; it means that we serve God ever more deeply and intimately.

Consider a baby. They go through a phase called separation anxiety that can last for years. I remember putting my older daughter in her little carry-chair when she was three or four months old and setting her down in the bathroom so I could take a shower. She’d be OK for a few minutes and then that fretful sound started. I’d call out to her but she was still too young to understand that hearing my voice in the room meant that I was there even though I was hidden behind the shower curtain.

So, I’d shower a bit and wait for the fuss and the fret until it became a frightened cry and then I’d peep my head out and say, “I’m here!” She smiled and wiggled and was OK for a few more minutes, when she forgot again that I was right there. I think it’s mean to just let a three or four month old baby cry in fear. A baby needs to know she’s safe and secure.

Dr. John Landgraf once said, “The more filled with fear one is, the more difficult it is to relax into God’s loving arms.” I would add: The more secure you are, the more you trust those safe, loving arms.

After awhile, a baby grows and they’re able to play on their own. If they start to fret, it’s enough to call out to the baby from another room. They hear your voice and they know they’re OK. Toddlers, of course, can handle longer separations, but even so, there’s plenty of young children who cry if they have to be left with a baby sitter they don’t know.

Our most basic fear may very well be the fear of being separated from God. And there are times when the promise in Romans 8, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ” can seem empty. Still, the words of I John 4:18 ring so very true: “perfect love casts out fear.” It is nothing we can learn on our own except by, in the words of that great hymn, “leaning on the everlasting arms.” Through this relationship we become more, rather than less, dependent upon God and as we do so, we mature and reflect God’s love in our lives.

One way towards going on to being made perfect in love, casting out fear and giving up our self-will is to recognize ourselves as beloved children of God. In our culture, we are very quick to identify ourselves first by our profession. Meeting someone the first time, the conversation can go like this, “Hi, I’m Sally.” “What do you do?” “I am a minister.” Not I minister to people; not I try to help people draw closer to God. We express what we do in words that makes it sound like that’s who we are.

Hi; I’m Clarence. I’m a plumber. Hi; I’m Betty. I’m a homemaker. Rather, God does not see us as plumbers, homemakers, or even ministers: he sees us first as his beloved children.

Also remember that our lives are made better through God’s loving presence. You can hope in love. With God’s perfect love casting out fear and God’s love growing within you, you have a hope beyond all hope and a hope that is eternal. Too often we think to ourselves, “If only ...” and we get mired in what’s wrong. “If only gas were cheaper ...” “If only I had a job ...” “If only my boss had a lick of sense ...” These things may be very real factors in our lives, but we can turn the wishful thinking into hopeful thinking, knowing that God does take care of us, his beloved children. Having a job or being able to afford gas prices is good, but these are not what make you who you are. Trusting God’s perfect love will cast out the fear we might have of giving our desires for our own lives into God’s perfect arms.

There is bright hope for tomorrow when we realize that resting in God’s perfect love means that we do not have to fear that he will be in our future.

God is good... all the time.

Sally Oakes is pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, 607 Rivers Road, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Phone: 770-964-6999 or 770-964-6992, or e-mail

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