Author Archives: Steve Harper

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.

Love: The Wesleys

​When I write about the Wesleys, I do so from within the tradition which has most substantially shaped my Christian faith.  Fortunately, the Wesleyan tradition is ecumenical, itself the child of other streams of Christianity, and one which invites us … Continue reading

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It’s 1984 Every Day Now

The dystopian world envisioned by George Orwell is coming to pass right before our eyes. The pandemic did not create this, it only exposes it. The origins are as old as Cain’s murder of Abel and his denial of responsibility … Continue reading

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Love: Thomas á Kempis

​The ‘Imitation of Christ,’ published  in 1441, is said by some to be the most read Christisn book other than the Bible.  But whether or not that’s true, the assertion speaks to the incalculable influence of this devotional classic.  Thomas … Continue reading

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In-Sight: Golden

​I have postponed this month’s In-Sight post until today because it is Jeannie’s and my 50th Anniversary.  Coming on a Friday, it’s the same day we were married five decades ago. Most of all, I begin this post by saying, … Continue reading

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Love: Julian of Norwich

​During a time of severe illness, Julian (1342-1413) had a series of sixteen “showings” that all revealed to her some aspect of God’s love.  These were great comforts to her, and when she wrote them down, ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ … Continue reading

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Love: Sts. Francis & Clare

​When we come to Francis (1182-1226) and Clare (1193-1254), we see another mountain peak in a theology of love.  Each of them sought to be instruments of God’s peace, sowing love in a multitude of ways throughout their lifetimes. Looking … Continue reading

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Love: Bernard of Clairvaux

​When we come to Bernard (1091-1153), we arrive at the highest point so far in church history with respect to a Christian theology of love.  He not only incorporated everything we have looked at previously, he also added new brush … Continue reading

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Love: Benedict’s Rule

​Written in the sixth century a.d., the Rule of St. Benedict soon became the guide for cenobitic (communal) monasticism, and I write about it today because the Rule continues to direct the common life of many communities to this day.  … Continue reading

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Love: Abba/Amma Love

The early Christian spiritual guides were called abbas and ammas, people who incarnated Trinitarian (”Abbba/Amma”) love.  Their central teaching was perfection (completion) in love in keeping with Jesus’ teaching of it in Matthew 5:48. The context for their theology of … Continue reading

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Love: The Didaché

​The Didaché is the oldest surviving catechism, likely written between 90-110 a.d. The centrality of love is seen at the beginning, where the “two ways”—life and death—are described.  Concerning life, it says,  ”Now the path of life is this — … Continue reading

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In-Sight: Collision Course

​Lent is the season in the Christian year when we take a prolonged look at ourselves in relation to Christ.  It is a time for remembering the radical nature of the Gospel, and an opportunity to recommit ourselves to it. … Continue reading

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Along the Way: At the Bottom of “The Slippery Slope”

When I wrote ‘For the Sake of the Bride’ in 2014, I received immediate pushback and censure from colleagues at Asbury Theological Seminary, and from the larger conservative Wesleyan world.  One parachurch group described me as “the latest evangelical to … Continue reading

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Love: New Testament Style

​Our first step into love in Christian history occurs before we leave the Bible itself.  It happens in the New Testament.  In this post I will illustrate love from three vantage points found in the New Testament. First, the priority … Continue reading

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Love: Eager to Love

​Far from being an abstract concept, the Trinity is what makes us us eager to love.  We are motivated to love because we are made like God, Who is Love. We love, as John put it, because God first loved … Continue reading

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Along The Way: Tending the Flock

​“Tend the flock of God among you” (1Peter 5:2) During the course of my thirty two years as a seminary professor, I taught courses in United Methodist history, theology, and polity in two theological schools and one Course of Study … Continue reading

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Along the Way: Real Love

​It’s not even noon, and my email box, facebook page, and related social media have presented a host of people and groups, all espousing love as being at the heart of what they are saying and doing.  And not surprisingly, … Continue reading

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Love: Spirit Love

​Galatians 5:22 is an awkward sentence: “The fruit of the Spirit is…” and then we read nine words.  At first glance, it seems that the sentence should read, “The fruits of the Spirit are…” but it doesn’t.  The reason is … Continue reading

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Shepherd’s Care: The Jesus Pattern–The One We Need

Jesus had a clear pattern for his life and ministry.  Luke described it in 5:15-16, “Huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed of their illnesses.  But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.” His pattern was a … Continue reading

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Love: Son Love (Jesus)

​Two great thoughts bring the love of God the Father into the love of God that we see in Jesus: the Word was God…and…the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14).  In Jesus we see the incarnation of love.  Reading the … Continue reading

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Along The Way: Our New Friendship

​On the night of his betrayal, Jesus gathered with his disciples.  John records it in chapters 15-17.  The evening was filled with one treasure after another, which we can read and re-read for our edification. One gem was Jesus’ definition … Continue reading

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Love: Son Love (Christ)

​To see the love of God in the second person of the Trinity, we must explore the love of the universal Christ and the incarnate Jesus.  We look at the universal Christ today and the incarnate Jesus next week. [1] … Continue reading

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In-Sight: We Never Get There First

​Paul’s visit to Athens (Acts 17:16-34) is insightful with respect to evangelism and missiology.  Today, I want to highlight only one insight—that we never get there first.  God is always ahead of us, present in people and places before we … Continue reading

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Love: Parent Love

I am comfortable with using “Father” in describing the first person of the Trinity, and that’s because I had a great dad.  But I recognize many are not comfortable with “father” language, and I respect that.  Some are uncomfortable because … Continue reading

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Along the Way: Mastery or Mystery?

​The longer I explore a theology of human sexuality, the more I realize that the differences we hold regarding it are produced by something larger than the topic itself.  With respect to anything, we are directed to a great extent … Continue reading

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Along the Way: On Point

​If I were a pastor, I would make youth ministry the cutting edge of my church’s mission.  There are a number of reasons why I would do this.  I write today only about one, and it is a reason fueled … Continue reading

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Love: Trinitarian Love

​For much of my Christian life, the Holy Trinity has been simultaneously a central doctrine and a marginal attraction.  I would never hesitate to say, “I believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” but either out loud or to … Continue reading

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Along the Way: Dreaming

​For the first time in our nation’s history, Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls in the midst of a presidential impeachment/trial process. [1]. The juxtaposition of these two things shapes my thinking as we observe MLK Jr Day today. On … Continue reading

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Love: Amazing Love

Every language has a word or words for love.  The biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek are no exception. The two main words are hesed and agapé.  [1]  In both words, love reaches its apex as “love for the sake … Continue reading

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Along the Way: What’s Going On?

We are living through an intense time of polarization, with resulting fragmentations of all sorts and sizes.  Every day adds new impetus for asking, “What’s going on?”  The depth and breadth of our conflicts makes a blanket answer impossible.  I … Continue reading

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Love: God is Love

Three words sum up the essence of everything: God is love.  They not only tell us who God is, but also who we are, and who/what everyone and everything else is.  At the creation level of cosmos and cells, love … Continue reading

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In-Sight: Incarnation

​Having recently celebrated Christmas, the Incarnation has been front-and-center in our faith.  In the birth of Jesus, the Word became flesh, and lived a while on the earth full of grace and truth (John 1:14).  The coming of the pre-incarnate, … Continue reading

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Love: Introduction

​Decades ago, a popular song said  “Love is a many splendored thing.”  Indeed it is, and I have been blessed to know this throughout my lifetime.  This coming April, Jeannie and I celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, and every year … Continue reading

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Christmas: Descent Into Oneness

​Christmas is the time for experiencing the formative work of descent.  We sing, “Love came down at Christmas.”  It is the hymnodic way of declaring with John that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14).  Christ’s “coming down” was a descent … Continue reading

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Oboedire 2020

Except for a meditation on Christmas day, I’m taking a break from Oboedire until January 1st. But here’s what’s in store for 2020–a continuation of some themes and the beginning of some new ones… (1) 2020 Theme: “Love.”–Each Wednesday we … Continue reading

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Holy Love: A Final Word

​I hope your reading of ‘Holy Love’ and these related posts has been helpful.  In the book, I include two additional writings: a word to LGBTQ+ people (“You  Are Loved”) and a word to those who disagree with me (”A … Continue reading

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Holy Love: The Life

In the final chapter of ‘Holy Love’ I hope to turn theory into practice, beliefs into behaviors—what John Wesley called “practical divinity.”  He believed that faith had to be practiced, not just professed.  He called it “living faith”—in the spirit … Continue reading

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In-Sight: Immanuel

​Michael Card has been one of my favorite musicians for a long time, recognized by many as a musical theologian, not just a performer.  His composition, “Immanuel,” is the song Jeannie and I turn to every Advent. We are still … Continue reading

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Holy Love: Passages #4

Romans 1:18-32 There’s no doubt that this passage is the focal text for interpreting human sexuality in general and LGBTQ+ sexuality in particular.  Romans links in spirit and substance with Leviticus.  Just as Israel was entering a new land, so … Continue reading

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Here and Now: Resting

​Our journey this year through the lens of “Here and Now” has taken us in many directions.  As we conclude the series, we must remember that here-and-now living brings us into a deep rest.  We live from the rest of … Continue reading

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Holy Love: Passages #3

​1 Corinthians 16:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10 Paul’s missionary journeys had taken him to Corinth and Cyprus before he made it to Rome.  So, I decided to treat these two passages before Romans 1.  What he experienced with respect to … Continue reading

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Here and Now: Engagement

​When we are  present to life here and now, we become engaged with life itself.  Communion, celebration, and compassion connect us to life in the present moment in ways that are life-giving to us and to others.  We see this … Continue reading

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Holy Love: Passages #2

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 Honestly, I was not prepared for the complexity regarding these two passages.  Far from being cut-and-dried as a one-sentence, straightforward condemnation of male homosexual activity, the passages are in relation to a cultural and religious context … Continue reading

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The Soul of Impeachment

​As the public phase of the impeachment process begins, nothing is more certain than this: it will occur in a whirlwind of confusion, fueled to a great degree by political partisanship that will seek to frame the matter along party … Continue reading

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Here and Now: Community

Being reconciled to one another in Christ here and now, we can move to establish community.  It is community based on grace, nothing else.  We do not have to be alike.  We do not have agree.  Our community is not … Continue reading

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Holy Love: The Passages #1

Introduction  I have not counted the total number of passages in the Bible that refer to human sexuality in general or sexual behavior in particular.  There are many, hundreds I would assume.  What I do know is that only a … Continue reading

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Here and Now: Reconciliation

​When our life in the present moment brings us to the point of seeing that everything belongs, it also reveals that God has given us a ministry–the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).  From that moment on, we know why … Continue reading

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Holy Love: Consummation

​When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  The previous facets  of the hermeneutic of love have helped us see love “on earth.” When we turn … Continue reading

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In-Sight: What a Wonderful World

Jeannie and I have just returned  from a great visit with our family in Kentucky.  The trip included several opportunities to experience the wonder and beauty of nature as fall settles in.  It really is a spectacular season. Seeing the … Continue reading

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Here and Now: Inclusion

​When we live in the present moment with the fullness of our true personhood in play, we experience inclusion and offer it to others.  We are included in everything, and everything is included in us.  As Richard Rohr has put … Continue reading

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Holy Love: Church

Expanding on the hermeneutic of love in the Church beyond what I write in the book means enlarging the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ.  I write some about it this in the book, but today I … Continue reading

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