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For the Love of God

February 15, 2012

In Book II of his Confessions, Augustine famously searches for the reason why he banded together with his friends to steal some pears in his youth. He does so on the basis that no sin is unmotivated, by arguing from the greater to the lesser:

A man committed murder. Why? Because he loved another’s wife or his property; or he wanted to acquire money to live on by plundering his goods;or he was afraid of losing his own property by the action of his victim; or he had suffered injury and burned with desire for revenge. No one would commit murder without a motive, merely because he took pleasure in killing. Who would believe that?

Confessions II. v. (11)

But being a product of my generation means that I’ve watched enough crime dramas to know that there are serial killers who kill simply for the thrill of killing. This would seem to disprove Augustine, except for one thing. Certainly it’s not the “thrill” itself the motivates the serial killer, but what the thrill means. Finding pleasure in killing another human being is simply taking pleasure in wielding power over other people taken to its ultimate extreme. When you get to decide who live or dies, you get to play God.

But what sin is not, at it’s root, a form of playing God? To break the law is to imply that you’re above it. All lawbreaking is a form of acting out, as we call it when we speak of children. One either acts out in brazen defiance (Rom. 1:32) or in a search for what’s missing. From daddy issues to Oedipus complexes and everything in between, I’d venture to say that all sin finds its root in a desire to love and be loved, neither of which the carnal mind has any idea how to do properly.

We do a lot of stupid and destructive things for the love of God, from petty theft to serial monogamy to serial killing. How delightfully surprising and comforting it is to find that all He requires is for us to be still and know that He is God. And in return for that love, He doesn’t give us the burden of the law that so many assume the Christian walk to be fraught with. No, His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mat. 11:30). Because when, for Christ’s sake, the law can no longer condemn us, following God’s commands is what saves us from our the self-destructiveness of our own sins. It’s for this reason that the Christian can joyfully sing with the psalmist, “I have longed for Thy salvation, O LORD; and Thy law is my delight” (Ps. 119:174).

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