Love and Do What You Will

What does it take to live a good life? Is it simple or complicated? Saint Augustine wrote innumerable works about the Christian life. His collected writings fill multiple library shelves. We might conclude from the amount he wrote that, for Augustine at least, living a good life is a complicated and arduous task. But for this early christian thinker, a good life was remarkably simple. This was his guiding principle: "Love and do what you will."

When we make an effort to live a good life, we usually become obsessively concerned with the things we're saying or thinking. We make an effort to observe 'holy' norms, perhaps giving more to charity, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or spending extra time with the Bible. 

None of these things are bad of course.  All of them can be done with love. But Augustine would point out, they can all be done without love as well. While good, these 'holy prescriptions' are not exactly the Christian life.

Scripture study, fasting, almsgiving, even church attendance can become routine. They can be done without heart, performed with a bored obligation or, even worse, with a self-congratulatory mindset. Not exactly a holy life!

In contrast, 'love and do what you will' invites us to a spontaneous life, a life led by the heart. This is a life that happens in 'real-time,' not planned and foreseen according to 'perfect' role-models. This life of the heart is not dominated by the divisions typical of the mind (good vs. bad, holy vs. profane, Christian vs. Non-Christian). This life is not found in the mind, but in the wholeness of the heart.

The true Christian life is not nervous about God. It does not worry about His judgements. The true Christian life, the life of the heart, does not think about God, it sees Him. 

Spending his life pondering the Scriptures and all truths about the divine nature, Augustine tells us that a holy life is very simple: "Love and do what you will." The holy life is the life of love.

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