Love God and do as you please?
Love God and do as you please? What do you think of such a statement? Outrageous? The first time I heard those words the “scorekeeper” in me rose up to say “No, that is an insult to grace and the cross as well as an invitation to licentiousness! That can’t be right.” This of course, was a rendering of Augustine’s famous statement, “If you but love God you may do as you incline.” No matter how you slice it, a comment like that warrants a period of serious head scratching. For that matter, the depth of the concept of grace can make you scratch your head too – and it should.
I would suggest that the primary motivation for “being good” or pleasing God is gratitude. We would strive to be “better,” to be “holy,” not to make God love us but because we are aware He already does. How are you in this department? Are you mindful of what God has done and is doing for you? Read what Paul urges young disciple Titus to profess – “ For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)
Augustine makes another salient point, saying “Who can be good, if not made so by loving?” Internal change seems to be nourished by relationship, doesn’t it? Love changes us. It has unique power to do so. We “do” good because we want to as a response to who God is, not as some form of appeal or to ingratiate ourselves to Him. Really, what can you and I offer Him that He would want more than a pliant heart?
Paul pens in Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Paul gets it, and we need to also. It’s not that hard. A person who truly loves God will be inclined to please God. This is true of our earthly relationships as well, isn’t it? Just as we nourish (not buy or finesse) our human relationships and demonstrate the value they are to us by pleasing others, pleasing God by loving and honoring Him in all things matters greatly. When we align our hearts and desires with God, we are moving according to His will and His favor follows. We see this similar theme again in Psalm 37:4 with David saying “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This, in a sense, promises reward for living respectfully and obediently according to God’s precepts. Perhaps that’s why both Jesus and Paul summed up the essence of the law with the command to love. Think About It.