Do The Right Thing
In my latest book, Love God, Love Everybody: Following Jesus In Our Divided World, I wrote an entire chapter entitled "Love God and Do What You Want."
I paused momentarily and read that sentence, realizing it sounded like a shameless plug or a bit la-ti-da, if you know what I mean.
But then I thought about the fact that there is this book I wrote that has a chapter with the aforementioned title, and I have to admit---that's pretty cool. I loved writing that chapter, if you must know.
The basic premise is that when pursuing a relationship with God, you tend to love the things God loves. So what you do after that is pretty much what God wants, too.
It wasn't an original thought. I partly borrowed it from St. Augustine, who coined the phrase this way, "Love God, and do what you will."
There was another quote that I almost included in that chapter that I wish I had. It's from author Maya Angelou's classic work on race in America, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings:
See, you don't have to worry about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, you do it without thinking.
It seems to me that this quote brings St. Augustine's (and mine) down to earth just a bit, which is where I think God would prefer them both. That's just my opinion, but I feel like it's a pretty good one.
Doing the right thing comes much easier when you are for the right thing. When your mind is bent toward the common good, you want the best for yourself and others. When your love for God translates into love for the people God loves, you tend to do things that show that love in ways that improve the world.
I'm still trying to live into this, by the way. I get it wrong more often than I get it right, which isn't an admission that warrants a free pass.
Good intentions don't always lead us to be for the right thing.
In fact, good intentions (to paraphrase an old cliche) often pave the road toward the wrong things, which demonstrates that maybe (despite good intentions) we might not have really been for the right things.
This is a struggle for all of us, let me tell you. Because it's our actions, and not our intentions, that determine our direction, and if the direction we're heading is away from the right thing, then we might need some re-orientation.
And there's no better way to get re-oriented than to do everything we can to stumble after Jesus, who showed us by his actions and words who and what God loves, and that to love God means loving everybody.
When we figure that out, we almost always will do the right thing.
May it be so for all of us. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all. Amen.