Chapter 5 – Loving Practice Makes Perfect Love

From the book Relational Holiness – Responding to the Call of Love by Thomas J. Oord and Michael Lodahl

Christian perfection is, in its essence, perfection in love.

  • There is a difference between knowing something and acting on that knowledge.

As we defined earlier, love is “To act intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote well-being.” Knowing this definition of love differs greatly from actually loving someone.

“A businessman known for his ruthlessness, arrogance, and religiosity once told Mark Twain he intended to visit the Holy Land before he died, in order to climb Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud. ‘I have a better idea,’ Twain said. ‘You could stay here in Boston and keep them.’

We would rather contemplate on what we do not know than actually do the things we know we ought to do.

People would rather debate doctrine or beliefs or tradition or interpretation than actually do what Jesus said. It’s not rocket science. Just go do it. Practice loving a difficult person or try forgiving someone. Give away some money. Tell someone thank you. Encourage a friend. Bless an enemy. Say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Worship God. You already know more than you need to know.” [1]

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving themselves.” (James 1:22, ESV)

  • The ability to do rather than just be – the ability to do good and love others – is a gift from God. It is only because of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we become better people.

“We cannot earn God’s love and forgiveness; it comes only by God’s grace. Salvation is given by the grace of God, achieved through the power of God, offered through the Spirit of God, and made secure by the promise of God. And so we commit our life to God.

But there is still a gap.

Now the gap is between the me I am right now and the me I’m meant to be — ‘current me’ and ‘sanctified me.’ But here’s the problem: People think it is our job to bridge that gap by our effort. But we can’t. This gap, too, can only be bridged by grace. Self-improvement is no more God’s plan than self-salvation. God’s plan is not just for us to be saved by grace — it is for us to live by grace. God’s plan is for my daily life to be given, guided, guarded, and energized by the grace of God. To live in grace is to flow in the Spirit.

The only way to become the person God made you to be is to live with the Spirit of God flowing through you like a river of living water. (John 7:37, ESV)” [2]

  • Your spiritual growth is not just about you, it is also about your impact on the world around you.

“God wants you to grow! He created the very idea of growth. The Talmud says that every blade of grass has an angel bending over it, whispering, ‘Grow, grow.’ Paul said that in Christ the whole redeemed community ‘grows and builds itself up in love.’ Your flourishing is never just about you. It is a ‘so that’ kind of condition. God designed you to flourish ‘so that’ you could be part of his redemptive project in ways that you otherwise could not. He wants you to flourish ‘so that’ people can be encouraged, gardens can be planted, music can be written, sick people can be helped, or companies can thrive in ways they otherwise would not. When you fail to become the person God designed, all the rest of us miss out on the gift you were made to give.” [3]

“God desires spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.”

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8, ESV)

  • As we travel this adventure of life together, we must remember one thing:

“My main job is to remain connected to God. When my primary focus is being present with him, everything else has a way of falling into place. When my primary focus becomes anything else, my inner vitality suffers, and I become a lesser version of myself.” [4]

This can be a challenge in today’s world. We can’t do it with our own willpower. What we get from the Holy Spirit is what we exhibit to others. By loving others, we mean loving one another.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, ESV)

Some people are easier to love than others. Still, we are called to love those that are not lovable. Consider the following:

When Others Anger You, Turning Other Cheek Hard But Necessary – Paul Prather


How do we approach others in love?

Jordan Peterson on Love and Compassion (2:10)

Courage for the Things of His Kingdom


[1] The Me I Want to Be. John Ortberg. Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (pg. 111).

[2] Ibid. (pg. 38)

[3] Ibid.  (pg. 30).

[4] Ibid. (pg. 35)

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