Last week I received the following quote in my daily Quotemeal from Heartlight.org. I really liked it and immediately copied and pasted it into a draft post for later writing. As I thought about what I would write for today, I was reminded of this quote.
It is not that we keep His commandments first, and that then He loves; but that He loves us, and then we keep His commandments. This is that grace, which is revealed to the humble, but hidden from the proud.
— St. Augustine of Hippo
I found this quote to be a wonderful summation of the Gospel. It is a great reminder that we cannot earn God’s love, we cannot earn salvation. God’s love always was and always will be available to us. His salvation is a gift that we do not deserve, but that our gracious God desires to give.
This quote is also a great reminder of the effect that a deep understanding of God’s abounding love and amazing grace has on the human heart. Such an understanding — sometimes referred to as “heart knowledge” — of God produces in the heart of the believer a profound appreciation for God’s saving grace. “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (NIV). This appreciation leads to a desire to show God’s love to others, and loving others is God’s greatest commandment after loving God Himself. Jesus said that these two commandments summed up all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:40.
It is a wonderful thing that God loves us first, because if we needed to keep His commandments before He would love us, we would all be lost. I am thankful that He first loved me, and that He has changed my heart.
The last part of this St. Augustine quote is also important. It is the humble, those who understand their need for a savior, who can understand the truth of God’s grace. But the proud refuse to admit that they cannot be good enough on their own merits. The proud believe that they can earn God’s love but that others who are not as good as them cannot.
Throughout scripture God has expressed His disdain for the proud and His love for the humble. “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34 (NIV).
God’s grace is available to all, but pride prevents many from accepting His free gift, from even understanding how awesome it is. Humility is the lens through which you will find our Lord’s love.