“Love and Do What You Want”
When a child gets into his teen years, he doesn’t want a list of rules. Teenagers see rules as arbitrary directives instituted by people in power in order to control our lives. If something is good or bad, moral or immoral, somehow it has to be so because of something intrinsic, beyond rules.
St. Augustine came up with an adage that has been repeated over and over again: “Love and do what you want.” In other words, if you truly love then you don’t need rules or commandments, love itself will suffice.
Think about it: does a newlywed bride need rules to do what is right? Suppose a newlywed friend asked you for advice—how far can I go with my boss before I would be unfaithful to my beloved husband? Can I let my boss take me out to lunch, would that be unfaithful? Can I let him hold my hand or give me a kiss? … If your newlywed friend were to ask you such questions, would you think she would be truly in love? Of course not! Someone truly in love doesn’t need rules to avoid infidelity because they are so focused on pleasing their beloved. They would never even come close to offending the other. Rules and commandments exist to help us see when our love falls short. If we lust over another or lie or steal then obviously we do not love as we should, perhaps because we don’t see how our action affects our relationship of love or perhaps because our love does not reach as far as it should: from God to all his children that he love.
The Beatitudes and the Commandments
Christ gave us the Beatitudes as way to paint a picture of true love: Blessed are the poor in spirit… who put all their material goods at the service of their loving relationships; Blessed are the meek… who don’t let disappointments and personal hurts damage their loving relationships, etc.
Both the Beatitudes and the Commandments reflect right relationships with God and with others based on true love. The Commandments tell us what actions we must avoid so as to not violate our loving relationships; the Beatitudes tell us what we must do affirm our loving relationships. The Beatitudes and Commandments complement each other.
The Commandments reflect a kind of parental pedagogy toward children, teaching those children what behavior is bad for loving relationships. The Beatitudes reflect how “love and do what you want” really means, especially between spouses: an unselfish love, pure love, forgiving and understanding love… a self-sacrificing love. Traditionally, the Commandments were divided in two, according to the two tablets of the Law. The first “tablet” held those Commandments that deal with our relationship with God while the second held the Commandments dealing with our relationship with others.
The Ten Commandments
God explicitly revealed the Ten Commandments to us through Moses (see Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:5-21). These Commandments reflect the Natural Law, and thus could be discovered by each of us on our own. But because sometimes we are slow learners—especially when it involves doing something we don’t want to do—and because it involves something so key to our ultimate happiness, God reveals them to us like a loving father teaching his child to do difficult things that will make the child happier and more successful.
The first three Commandments explain the duties of our love for God. The fourth Commandment explains how to love God through those who communicate his parental love to us. The other Commandments explain our duties of love toward God’s other children.
Learning to love is the goal of Christian morality which can be summarized in the Commandments and Beatitudes.Fr. John R. Waiss
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