“Love God and Do As You Please!!”

 

 

            St. Augustine of Hippo is regarded as one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity.  In a statement that to my way of thinking summarizes his understanding of how Christians are to live out their faith, he says, “Love God and do as you please.”

            At first glance, his words appear disturbing and irresponsible.  It is as if he is suggesting that anything goes; that everything is permissible; that we have neither limits nor boundaries; and that we are free to do whatever we believe we are big and bad enough to do.  And that is a terribly frightening prospect.  But when we take a deeper look at his words, they reveal that what St. Augustine is saying is a far cry from the kind of absolute freedom that has neither limits nor boundaries.  Quite the contrary, freedom is having the right and the ability to choose the limits and the boundaries by which we shall live.

            In the case of those of us who are a part of the community of faith that was called “the people of the way” in the first century, St. Augustine is affirming that we chose to live out our faith based on the limits and boundaries determined by our love of and for God.  That means that because of our love for God, there are things that we should do and things that we should not do.  Because we love God, we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves; because we love God we should not hate our enemies; because we love God, we should be just in our dealings with all humanity; because we love God, we should not allow any injustice to stand; because we love God, we should forgive any offense committed against us; because we love God, we should not hold any grudge or seek revenge against anyone who has offended us.

            While the examples listed are relatively clear, the matter is not that easily resolved.  The issue becomes how we work out that love of God in the midst of the controversial issues that face us in our society.  Is capital punishment a reflection of our love for God?  How best do we express our love for God when it comes to the questions of abortion and homosexuality?  Is there such a reality as a just war that can be based on our love for God?  Given our highly advanced, technological society and our ability to do things that our parents never dreamed of, does our love of God compel us to raise the question should we do what we have the knowledge to do simply because we have the ability to do it?

            When the question of the greatest commandment was raised with Jesus, without so much as a moment’s hesitation, he responded by answering, “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  I think that maybe St. Augustine was simply saying what Jesus had already said in a different way.  I believe our greatest challenge as Christians is to make every possible effort, deliberately and intentionally, to deepen and grow our love for God and allow that love to determine the limits and boundaries by which we live.     

                         

 

 

19 comments to “Love God and Do As You Please!!”

  • April

    Hey Rev.,

    Your last line reminds me of something you mentioned in bible study awhile ago. You said one person may not consider it a sin to enjoy the occasional glass of wine, while another person can be completely offended by the idea of a Christian drinking any alcohol. You mentioned that it is our own personal relationship with God that determines what we feel is okay and what we may feel is wrong (what our limits and boundaries are).

    I think it’s a valid point because our own experiences and how God has revealed himself and what God reveals of himself during those experiences validate how we feel we can/should live our lives. And as that relationship grows, those limits and boundaries may change.

    I think it’s important to know that our relationship with God should be fluid and alive, which means it can grow and change as our relationship with God grows.

  • Hey April,
    Our relationship with God is very much like a good marriage. A good marraige has rules, guidelines and expectations. But we really don’t spend a lot of time talking about those things. What we do is we are aware that we genuinely love our partner and it is that love that tells us deep down inside what the rules and guidelines are. Time and again God does say I will write my law in their hearts. It’s in the love.

    Rev.

  • Andrew Schiller

    I’m looking to use Augustine’s quote, “Love God and do as you please” in an academic paper, and I was wondering if you knew a proper citation for the quote. Which of his works it is in, where in the work, etc.
    Thanks.

  • shirlonda

    Hey Rev., if you are not able to move forward in forgiving does this mean you’ve moved away from God? Does it mean that your heart has hardened? Or just that you’ve chosen not to forgive because of your pain? However in loving God we’re supposed to not focus on ourselves, its a difficult task.

  • No, it does not mean you have moved away from God. Forgiveness is hard and it does not come easily. If it does then maybe it is not forgiveness. Give yourself time to go through the grief and the hurt and forgiveness will become even more possible.

    Rev.

  • Ike

    How do we develop a greater heart for and love of God?

  • Hello Ike,

    Thanks for visiting our website and reading my blog. The only way I know to develop and deepen our relationship with God is through the spiritual disciples. They include regualr prayer, reading of the Bible, meditation, fasting, etc. Our relationship with God is much like any other relationship; relationships grow when we spend time with those who are our friends. There is a book that can be of help entitled “Soul Feast” by Marjorie Thompson. It is a very good place to start. Pick it up and read it and I beleive you will find yur relationship with God growing in ways it has not grown before.

    Pastor Yeargin

  • If we love God, we will keep his commandments. This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments and they are not grievous according to the scripture.

  • Gary in TN

    I’m teaching a class on Romans and this quote by Augustine came up when discussing the 13 chapter. I really enjoyed your comments and would like to use them. Keep up the work of the Lord and your obvious care for others. It’s has blessed me a ton! 10,000 blessings!

  • What a great Catholic St. Augustine was.. It seems nothing has really changed in 1700 years.

  • Keeping the commandments is easy when you’re not in a difficult ‘ethical’ dilemmas. Say a mother who is pregnant, is being ‘saved’ by the doctor. He can only save one, and ‘kill’ the other. Does that mean he is disobeying the law Thou Shalt Not Kill? Not that easy. So is “Just War” theory. Many wars we see from the outside looking in, we say oh how unjust, yet we justify sending in armies to ‘pacify the conflict’ by adding to the violence. It’s a coup out to blame the soldiers who are obeying orders. I’m a Catehuman (becoming a Catholic, learning the Catechism), love what I’m reading of Augustine then a friend points me to this blog. He has a profound and reasonable theology on just wars. I thought it’s simply brilliant. He’s not over-simplifying the commandments, yet he is still teaching biblically.

  • Thanks again for your comments. I agree with you that keeping the commandments is relatively easy when we are not faced with difficult ‘eithical’ dilemmas. But it seems that life is filled with many difficult ‘ethical’ delimmas. The question becomes what’s the most loving thing for the doctor to do when he/she has to choose whether the mother or the child lives: what’s the most loving thing to do when deciding whether or not to go to war. Sometimes the problem is not deciding what to do; sometimes we know what to do but the question is having the courage to do it. Is there any such a thing as a just war when Jesus makes it clear: “Love your enemies…”(Matthew 5:44) Is killing them an act of love? To my way of thinking practicing the faith is not easy because it does require that we go against that which comes most naturally to us; like defending our lives against an enemy. Sometimes the only thing we can do is struggle as honestly as we can with the delimmas we face and pray for guidence in the effort to live as best we can as children of God. The truth is there is so much we do not know about life and maybe even less that we know about God. According to God Himself, “For my thoughts are not yur thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Given that “God is Love” (I John 4:8), the struggle becomes what is the most loving thing to do in any given situation?

  • Randy Calvelli

    Very good, Pastor. I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you very much for helping to clear up any confusion out there (if there is any). Blessings.

  • Thanks for a well written article. I would recommend also Richard Foster’s books on the disciplines.

  • Thanks so much for your response. It is encouraging and I have checked out Richard Foster’s work.

  • Andrew

    Hi Pastor, thanks for the great article.

    Just out of curiosity, may I know which country and/or state you are from?

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