Love: E. Stanley Jones

​I have previously identified E. Stanley Jones as the overall most major influence in my theological and spiritual life.  His influence only increased when, years ago, I discovered that he wrote an entire book on love, ‘Christian Maturity.’ [1]  Like some other of his books, this one offers a year’s worth of  daily readings, affording readers the opportunity to concentrate on love for an extended period.

Using the letter of First John, Jones connects maturity with love, noting that “we are mature as we are mature in love.” [2]  This is a view in keeping with what we noted last week in Evelyn Underhill’s theology of love.  I think they both got the idea from St. Paul, who described his maturation as a growing into love (1 Corinthians 13).

Growth in love is growth into increasing maturity because it is growing increasingly I to God, who is love (1 John 4:8, 16).  Growth in love is also the hallmark of the Spirit-filled life (Galatians 5:22), wherein we find the motivation and the means to love our neighbors as ourselves.
One of the keynotes in Jones’ theology is that love is the means for overcoming the major problems that we face in life.  Love overcomes racism, independence, impulsiveness, fear, resentment, naivete, negativism, self-seeking, pride, self-condemnation, and emptiness. [3] Love is not only the key pronciple that runs through life, it is the ultimate power that enables us to live as God intends.

It is no exaggeration to say that, for E. Stanley Jones, every achievement is due, in some way, to the presence of love, and equally fair to say that every decline is due to the absence of love.  Life rises and falls in relation to love. Love cleanses, consecrates, and conquers.  Love calls out the best in us.  We are never more the people God means for us to be than when we love. 

[1] E. Stanley Jones, ‘Christian Maturity’ (Abingdon Press 1957).

[2] Ibid., xii.

[3] Ibid., Jones writes in the book about love’s ability to overcome each of these things, leaving us to conclude (as St Paul did) that love is the means to victory in all things (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a).

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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