How much (or little!) love is 'enough' for salvation?

In another thread, truthseekerjay and I have been discussing a number of really interesting issues. I’m hoping that Jay will come to this thread and explain it himself, but in one of his posts, he said:

[quote=truthseekerjay]I’ve tried to show you how neither I nor my parents had any love for Jesus, but you somehow think there is love. I understand that perfect love doesn’t have to be present, but the “kernel” of love that you mentioned doesn’t seem to be present for us either. To me, if there is no love FROM US, then it just comes down to rule following and checking things off a list similar to what you would do if a judge gave you a fine. Maybe we should first discuss the kind of love that has to be present because as of right now, it seems like the interactions with God that my parents and I had were very businesslike, with no concern for God.

So, here’s the question: inasmuch as none of us can love God as perfectly as He loves us, just how much, exactly, do we need to love God in order to be saved? Conversely, how little can we love God and still be saved? Is it possible that, just by doing the things that Jesus wishes of us – being baptized, receiving sacraments, etc – in the expectation that these things really do work (or, as Jay mentions it, having our parents lead us in that direction), we might be saved? Or, on the other hand, as Jay sees it, is this simply an emotionless exercise in ‘rule following’ that will have no effect?

I think the premise there is no love “FROM US” is incorrect. The Scripture says “we love because He first loved us”. 1 Jn 4:19. So, I tend to agree with the sentiment that He first gives us the grace (kernel) to love, but we have to respond to that grace and walk in it. I think the answer to the title to the thread is “As much as we are capable”… and only God knows of each person’s capabilities. Love is a command of God “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:34-35. But our expression of love varies according to our gifts and call, some of us love by praying for people, some of us love by service, some of us love by sacrificing our time, treasure and talent. It is not some check list of good deeds, that is not love, that is rule following (pharisaic). If you pray for someone (or go to Church, or donate to a good cause) because of self interest (ie. getting into heaven), that is not love. If you pray for someone because you want what is best for them and you are concerned for their well begin, or You go to Church because you want to worship God and receive Jesus, etc, then those are acts of love. I guess when it comes to an “expression of love” versus the “checking things off a list” one simply needs to look at their heart and their intentions. They will know whether it is an act of love or false piety.

Some other Scriptures about us loving each other:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

The Scripture would not tell us to love if there could be no love coming from us.

Don’t know. :shrug: Unsure. That’s God’s call, I believe insofar as how much is enough. Only God can make that determination. Sometimes, he can be merciful, as well. That’s also his perogative.

Interesting question. If you take an extreme example of a fallen Catholic who spends their life hating God, becomes a robber, murderer etc but on their deathbed they genuinely repent they will be saved. How much love for God would that be?

Consider that even just being contrite purely out of fear of Hell, is enough to be saved. Simple emotionless rule following is a sacrifice in itself. What matters more, doing things because you want to or doing the right things even when you dont want to? Very much like last week’s reading, who does the will of God? The one who says “Yes” and does not do the task, or the one who says “No” and ultimately does the will of the Father?

Now there’s a thread title that catches one’s attention!

Here’s what comes to my mind immediately:

You shall seek me; and as I said to the Jews: Whither I go you cannot come; so I say to you now. [34] A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. [35] By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.

Our salvation is in our hands, but it is up to God’s infinite love, mercy and justice as whether or not we spend eternity with Him.
God DEMANDS that we love without end. We have to love God with all our soul, with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Well, realistically, that is what we need to strive to do. God knows our hearts and He knows whether or not we are truly striving to love him completely and above anything or anyone else.
To put it simply, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (I read that somewhere. :wink: )

How much? It has a lot to do with good-will.

St. Alphonsus: “Many are unwilling to be separated from God by mortal sins; they wish to follow him, but at a distance, and regardless of venial sins. But to them shall probably happen what befell St. Peter. When Jesus Christ was seized in the garden, St. Peter was unwilling to abandon the Lord, but “followed him afar off.” (Matt. xxvi. 58.) After entering the house of Caiphas, he was charged with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was instantly seized with fear, and three times denied his Master. The Holy Ghost says: “He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little.” (Eccl. xix. 1.) They who despise small falls will probably one day fall into an abyss; for, being in the habit of committing light offences against God, they will feel but little repugnance to offer to him some grievous insult.”

Rev. J. B. Scaramelli, S.J. says something similar: “He who only intends to keep the commandments that obligate under pain of mortal sin, commits numerous venial sins, and these weaken the soul and dispose it to fall into mortal sin. ‘It is morally impossible,’ says Suarez, ‘that one can keep the firm purpose never to commit a mortal sin, unless he perform works of supererogation and make at least the virtual resolution to have always recourse to them.’” (Manual of Christian Perfection)


FYI, CAF supports (but does not make it obvious) superscript tags. You could write d\y/dx=2x2, substituting square braces for <>, which would render:


But your differential equation is in error with respect to the question.

Rather, the love we must have for God in order to be saved, expressed mathematically, is ( √-1 ).

It is nonzero, but it is impossible to quantify, either finitely or infinitely.

I had never thought of it that way, but it’s actually kinda cool.

According to Jesus the greatest command is to Love God with our whole heart, our whole mind and our whole strength. The second greatest command is to love our neighbor as our self. On these two commands are build all of the law and prophets. (Mt 22:36-40)

Conversely, how little can we love God and still be saved?

I would not wish to try to quantify this. Rather, I might ask how imperfect can our love be and we still be saved? This has much to do with one’s intent. The heart and the effort count for a lot.

Is it possible that, just by doing the things that Jesus wishes of us – being baptized, receiving sacraments, etc – in the expectation that these things really do work (or, as Jay mentions it, having our parents lead us in that direction), we might be saved? Or, on the other hand, as Jay sees it, is this simply an emotionless exercise in ‘rule following’ that will have no effect?

Jay actually asks very good questions. Mindless “rule following” and trying to count “merits” etc can be like the pharisees who look all holy but really aren’t. Or those who cry “Lord Lord” but don’t truly believe or who do things for the wrong reasons.
On the other hand there are those who, for whatever reason, have been taught this sort of “rule following” mentality. For such people the rule following can be efficacious. For those who know better and are just trying to skate by…this will not be sufficient.

Without having time to read through all the replies so far, I would suggest that Jay, but recognizing this and asking the questions is already growing in grace. If he acts positively on this opportunity to grow…the Holy Spirit will enlighten him on these matters.


Let me just give everyone some background on what Gorgias and I have been discussing. I asked if I was receiving absolution and forgiveness when I confessed simply due to my fear of punishment and the answer was yes.

I explained to Gorgias that I didn’t have any love for Jesus during my early twenties. He was like a judge for a speeding ticket. I didn’t care who the judge was. The court could have assigned a different judge and it would not have mattered to me just as long as my ticket was waived. That’s how I approached confession during my early twenties. Honestly, if I grew up in a Buddhist dominated country, I would have followed their rituals. I just happened to be exposed to Roman Catholicism first. Basically, I was just kissing up to Jesus until I got into heaven and then I figured I’d do whatever was physically possible there. It seemed like my fear of punishment was still enough for absolution/forgiveness to occur.

Then I asked if I could still receive absolution/forgiveness during confession if I remained loveless (at no fault of my own) for the rest of my life. The priests didn’t detect my lack of love for years, so they didn’t try to correct it. As for me, I wasn’t trying to lack love on purpose. I just viewed Jesus similar to other authoritative figures in my lives. Do what they say until you get what you want and then do whatever you want after. Apparently, I could still receive absolution/forgiveness despite my lack of growth in love.

At this point, since there was no love for Jesus, what stood out for me was LUCK and my ability to FOLLOW RULES/check things off a list. The only thing that I felt distinguished me from a good rule following Buddhist or Muslim wast that I was lucky to be exposed to Roman Catholicism first. Otherwise, I would have done the same things that they did. This is when we started discussing baptism and how that distinguished me from a good rule following Buddhist.

I pointed out that even my baptism was just another example of LUCK and good RULE FOLLOWING/checking things of a list. My parents, just like atheist or even Satan worshipping parents, will do anything for my safety (my dad has told me that he would break rules, including those of the RC church, to protect my family). Since they were first exposed to Roman Catholicism, they had me baptized, but they would have done whatever ritual they were exposed to first to ensure my safety. This act was not personal. It was all business. It’s like taking medicine from a drug company. They will take whatever medicine they can get a hold of first or whatever was easiest to obtain WITHOUT regard to the drug company. There really was NO DIFFERENCE between my parents and atheist parents except that my parents LUCKILY stumbled on Roman Catholicism first.

Since love isn’t present, doesn’t this imply that luck and rule following/checking things off a list is more important?

Some thoughts…

  1. Fear of hell is not a bad thing. It is often the first step on the road of salvation.
  2. The act of your parents in having you baptized and your dad’s admission that he would break rules to protect you are acts of great love.
  3. The sense of the “traffic judge” or authoritative figure there simply to be obeyed and that is all simply speaks to a lack of knowledge about, and/or embracing of, God’s Love. It appears from what you have written that much of this is simply from ignorance. Your parents were not taught and you were not taught the importance of growing in holiness and love for God.
  4. The idea that if you were born in a different culture with a different faith, you would have happily gone along with those rituals makes perfect sense and might not be a bad thing…depending on a lot of variables.

As for your last comment/question, the answer is an emphatic NO. Love is the most critical aspect in all of this.
Scripture is extremely clear on this point. Love is the foundation of all the law and all the prophets (Mt 22:36-40). Jesus gave us a single command - to Love one another (John 13:34-35). Love is greater than either faith or hope (1 Cor 13:13). We are even told that God IS Love (1 John 4:7-8).

All of the rituals - the acts that you and your parents participated in - - baptism, communion, confession - - these all stem from that Love. Even if you did not realize it, or thought you were only acting out of fear, you were actually acting in and with and through Love.
Love is the thing that even drives the fear that you speak of. You fear hell because you love life. You love life and you love yourself so much that you want to live forever with God - not with satan. So even this fear stems from God’s love working in you.

Granted you do not feel it or recognize it, but I submit that the kernel of love has been at work in you for quite some time.

Just some thoughts


As with the other two theological virtues, faith and hope, love is a supernatural gift which we must accept and cooperate in its cultivation and blossoming-or not; God never forces His will, His grace, His love, upon us. But His desire is that we come to willingly embrace it, increasingly becoming transformed into His own image in the process.

In the end He decides how much is enough. We’re judged based on what we’ve done with what we’ve been given. Reference Luke 12:48 as well as the Parable of the Talents.

Just asking the question is trouble.
There is no “how much” in God.
God gives all, his love is boundless. We should desire to give all in return.
If we bargain, we turn his covenant into a contract. And we all know we can’t fulfill that contract.

Wonderfully expressed…:thumbsup:


One of the classic analogies for our relationship with God is marriage (strange coincidence ? :D).
Can you imagine asking your wife,
"Dear, our anniversary is coming up…what must I do to prove I love you? "
It implies that I can do the minimum and meet a requirement, and hold something back for myself.

But anyone who is married can tell you, the minimum is not going to be enough. At some point in time, when the stuff hits the fan, every bit of your “person” will be at risk, and you will be asked to give all of yourself. Whether it be forgiveness of an awful transgression, addiction, cancer, poverty, working 70 hours a week to pay the mortgage, etc etc…And just when you believe you have given everything, God gives you the miraculous ability to give more. Just like his Son giving himself in death opens the door for all of us to love.

I struggle with loving God for his own sake rather than for my own salvation. I do my best, and try to be open to sacrificial giving. Those opportunities to love are given to us in many ways…financially, spiritually, emotionally. If we accept those opportunities to love God, he will multiply them for us, just like he did on that hillside 2000 years ago. Which is great cause on my own I don’t have the desire or ability to give selflessly like that.

How much is enough?

Ponder this then…

“You love Jesus as much as the person you love the least.”***

Nothing else need be said. THAT’S how your is measured… Do you think it will be enough?



I don’t think we’re suggesting that there’s a limit to how much we should love God. Rather, we’re simply asking whether there’s a quantitative amount – a ‘minimum’, if you will – that (acting as a sort of line in the sand) is sufficient in order to be saved. More than that amount, and you’re heaven-bound; less than that amount, you better pack suntan lotion, 'cause it’ll be hot where you’re headed… :wink:

The question that Jay is asking essentially boils down to this: if I do the things that Catholics do (e.g., baptism, sacraments, Mass attendance, etc), but I don’t meet some minimum measurable standard of ‘love for Jesus’, am I not just some sort of ‘rule follower’ in the kind of way that means that I won’t be saved?

Is this REALLY the love that God desires from us? Even criminals have this same love for their children and probably worshippers of Satan as well. Wouldn’t you say that the only real difference between the criminals and my parents was that my parents LUCKILY stumbled upon the rules of RC first rather than a life of crime?

Also, some criminals may commit crimes because they don’t fear punishment, but I feel that most actually fear punishment and just don’t think that they’d get caught by earthly authorities or God. Does their fear really stem from God’s love?

In a sense yes, as God is love and all things work to his purposes, even fear.
It’s a mysterious thing and hard to discuss with any precision.

Love is
-to will- the good of another, for the sake of the other.
So love is not based in emotions, it’s based in the will.
Love is also a theological virtue, a gift from God. So, one must know and accept God’s love before one can love someone else. You can’t give what you don’t have. People may have love in their hearts we are unaware of. Maybe it’s not our business to know how much this and how much that.

Perhaps we need to just love others, and let God work his will, as he wills.
Does the anxiety you have on this issue bring you closer to God? Does it bring anyone else closer to God?

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