Saint Augustine on Love

Because yesterday was Saint Augustine’s feast day, I decided to read some of Augustine’s works. It also just happened to coincide with some thoughts I was having about “love.” When we show love (agape) to others, we have to do what is right, and best for them, in line with the mind of Christ, and not necessarily what is the most fun or exciting. This applies as parents, teachers, friends, etc. And whatever we do, as Augustine points out below, we are to do in love.

I am obviously not suggesting being mean or cruel to others in the name of love. Most people aren’t really going to come to believe in Jesus when a street preacher screams at them and in the next breath says “it’s because I love you.” We Christians are able to be lovingly firm without being overbearing. I feel like I have to add this caveat because many people have known Christians (perhaps parents) who used this sort of thinking as justification for doing bad things to others, in the name of Christ.

Augustine’s quote below certainly gives us some food for thought:

Such is the force of love, that it alone separates; it alone distinguishes the actions of men. This we have said in the case where the actions are similar. In the case where they are diverse, we find a man by love made fierce;  and by iniquity made gentle. A father strictly disciplines a boy, and a seducer of boys caresses. If you name the two things, strict discipline and caresses, who would not choose the caresses, and decline the punishment? Yet, if you take note of the persons, it is love that strictly disciplines, iniquity that caresses. See what we are insisting upon; that the deeds of men are only discerned by the root of love. For many things may be done that have a good appearance, and yet proceed not from the root of love…Once for all, then, a short precept is given you: Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good. – Augustine, Homily Seven on First John