Love and righteousness are so closely related that some people think that they are one and the same. But one is superior to the other. Do you know which?
If you said love, you are so very right! Love begets righteousness, righteousness begets justice and so on… Righteousness doesn’t beget love. If the highest quality is righteousness, many of us would never taste love! But because we get to know love, through Jesus who showed us God’s great love, we can begin to understand what it means to be righteous, and conform ourselves to this standard.
Love has many children. Love begets grace and mercy and favour. The greatest gift we could give anyone is the gift to know love, to know the true source of love, God Himself.
Jesus said He didn’t come to judge or condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:16-18)! Notice the ultimate motivation was love…and righteousness is simply a fruit of that love! If we want to win the world, we have to learn from Jesus by coming with love and not with condemnation. Those who reject God’s love are those who choose condemnation.
I firmly believe God is righteous because He is first Love. He is just, because He is Love. He is merciful, because He is Love, and He is gracious, because He is Love!
Notice how all the Law and Prophets is summed up in LOVE, not righteousness! Once you’ve got love, you’ve got the whole package! If we start with anything other than love, we won’t get the best outcome. If mercy is the greatest quality, for instance, sin would be more rife, as evil will go unchallenged and tolerated. If righteousness is the greatest quality, we would be too self-righteous and unable to love our neighbour, let alone our enemies. If justice is the greatest quality, then grace would be dearly lacking. But in love, everything find their correct balance. Paul really could not have said it better:
1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
We may never understand love fully, but as we seek to imitate Christ, the true revelation of God’s love, we will not miss our way.
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