Ordo Amoris

Latin scares a lot of people. It scared me when first I studied it (or rather, crammed it) in ninth grade. However, there are times when a phrase in Latin communicates more precisely than English. Ordo Amoris is one of those phrases. A literal translation would be ‘ordered loves’ or ‘the order of love’ which sounds clumsy. It’s what the phrase means that we are concerned with, though. Ordo Amoris means that we should love things according to their value. We are not supposed to love all things equally. Nor are we to love all things in the same way. In other words, every thing has an appropriate love, both in degree, and in quality.

In terms of degree, you do not love coffee as much as you love your child; you do not love your plant as much as you love your spouse; you do not love your car as much as you love your parents (or at least – you shouldn’t!).

In terms of quality, you do not love your dog the way you love your mother; you do not love ice cream the way you love honesty; you do not love your friend the way you love nature; you do not love a sports game the way you love your spouse.

If you love some thing more than it deserves, your love is disordered. If you love some thing less than it deserves, your love is disordered. If you love some thing in a way that is contrary to its nature, your love is disordered. You have what the KJV calls ‘inordinate affection’ (Col 3:5).

On some level, we all suffer from this. In fact, the goal of spiritual growth is to come to a place of ‘ordinate affection’ or ‘ordered loves’. We know this, because the stated goal of the Christian life is to love God (Mark 12:30). Therefore, we must give priority attention to the matter of loving God appropriately.

 

  1. He must be our highest love.

To love anything more than God is to commit idolatry. That’s because nothing in all creation is worth as much as God. He is more beautiful, more desirable, more trustworthy, more worthy of honour and love than anything else. Nothing should occupy first place in our loves except God Himself.

   2.  He must be loved for Himself.

When you love something as a means, you still love something else more. If you love money, it is usually because you love what that money can buy. To love God as a means rather than an end is to love the things we think He must give us – health, comfort, popularity, entertainment, problem-free living. In fact, we are then loving ourselves as our god, not God. When God is a means rather than an end, He is not loved correctly.

   3. He must be loved in accordance with His nature.

As we have said, the quality, or type, of love depends on the nature of the thing loved. You must not love God any old way, and come to Him, expecting Him to be pleased. If you do that, you may in fact be coming to an idol of your own making. God is a thrice-holy God, the Supreme Sovereign, the Sustainer of all, the Most Ancient, Unchanging, Uncreated, Self-Sustaining Great I AM. He is our Father, Saviour, Comforter and Lord. You do not love Him as a buddy, a pal, a chum, a boyfriend, a cuddle-toy, a pet, or as a human. Your approach, your words, your deeds, your music, your attention, your posture must love Him for who He is, not for Who you think He might be. The Bible is full of people who treated God as they thought He was, and came out second best (Cain, Nadab & Abihu, calf-worshipping Israelites, Uzza, Ananias etc.)

This is the goal of our lives, now and through all eternity (where we’ll have it right!). Conservative Christianity is very much concerned with ordinate affection.

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