When I was a kid, we learned a variety of ways to avoid taking God’s name in vain. For example, we weren’t allowed to say OMG (before text-speak, one actually said the words); it was, “Oh. My. Gosh.” It was “For Pete’s sake!” instead of using the Messiah. And the expression at our house when exasperated was, “Oh! For the love of Pete.” Now, I don’t know who Pete was nor how he got honored with these substitutions for divinity, but it kept us from violating the second commandment.
For some reason, the expression came to mind recently: “For the love of God.” But not as an exasperated utterance; as a description of why Salvation Army officers do what they do.
That phrase is contained in The Salvation Army Mission Statement: our “ministry is motivated by the love of God.” I believe the phrasing is deliberate to include these meanings:
- We have been the recipients of God’s lavish love, culminating in Jesus’ sacrifice that secured our salvation. Having been recipients of that grace, we spread the news of God’s love to bring others to salvation. We preach the gospel and serve suffering humanity out of gratitude for God’s love to us.
- We are motivated by our love for God. I John 4 tells of the connection between loving God and loving others, concluding “And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (NIV)
- We are channels of God’s love. Paul says in Romans 5:5 that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (KJV)
Love can be a tremendous motivating force. For example, my Dad was the one who enforced discipline in our house; Mom never gave me a spanking. But I remember that avoiding spankings was not enough motivation to keep me from wrongdoing. Worse punishment for me was Mom’s expression of disappointment in me as her son. My love for her was stronger motivation to do right than my fear of physical punishment.
Just so, the love of God – in each of the ways outlined above – motivates our mission. Our ministry of service in TSA is propelled by this motivation.
The stressors of officership, heightened by the current pandemic, may cause some to become exasperated. I pray that the phrase, “for the love of God” springs to mind to remind us why we do what we do.
And remember: there’s a host of us “in the balcony” cheering you on and praying for you.