(The following is the next entry in a 31-day blog journey through John Piper’s, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry [Broadman and Holman, 2002.])
“God’s love does not conflict with his holiness and righteousness. On the contrary, the nature of God’s holiness and righteousness demands that He be a God of love. His holiness is the absolute uniqueness and infinite value of His glory. His righteousness is His unswerving commitment always to honor and display that glory. And His all-sufficient glory is honored and displayed most by His working for us rather than our working for Him. And that is love.
Love is at the heart of God’s being because God’s free and sovereign dispensing of mercy is more glorious than would be the demand for humans to fill up some lack in Himself. It is more glorious to give than to receive. Therefore, the righteousness of God demands that He be a giver. Therefore, the Holy and Righteous One is love.
Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love. And when He came, He said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for man” (Mark 10:45).
The Son of man has not come seeking employees. He has come to employ Himself for our good. We dare not try to work for Him lest we rob Him of His glory and impugn His righteousness” (14-15).
I am prone to fail at properly mingling righteousness, love, and holiness. As a dad who loves his girls – and boys, but the sons are irrelevant to this illustration about dads and daughters – I have offered what I thought was love in the form of grace when I probably should have offered love in the form of discipline. But dads can be softies when it comes to their girls (just like moms are responsible for that sinful invention called “a momma’s boy”). The mis-education my children receive on love, righteousness and holiness is only reinforced when I feel the need to explain to my children that I am loving them even when I am disciplining them. “Even?”
As a shepherd I also struggle with the clover of love, holiness and righteousness. Can I love an erring member faithfully while demanding holiness of disposition and righteousness in deeds because I am seeking to be holy and righteous before God? Of course I can and should. But as with my girls, Occasionally, I offer love in the form of patience when love in the form of immediate confrontation is needed. This is a delicate dance we do as shepherds with erring members, for rebuke or correction too soon or too harsh is not love, nor does it produce righteousness. Neither, however, will a fool understand lengthy mercy and grace to be encouraging holiness.
Our model, Christ, does not suffer from limitations produced by a need to measure appropriate mixtures of love, righteousness, and holiness, nor does he wrestle with correctness in motives with any of these three characteristics. He is love. He is holy. He is righteous. He is all three from all eternity and ever will be in every action toward us. His character never suffers from a malfunction of system mergers. The God-centered God is a God-centered, all-loving, completely righteous, absolutely holy God.
Piper explains that love, righteousness and holiness operate in perfect harmony for the Lord. If I may say, our God has a holy righteous love, a righteously loving holiness, and a lovingly holy righteousness! When this is communicated toward us in the death of his Son for our sins, the God-centeredness of God shines forth even more. God is not an ego-maniac in desiring that we live for his glory even as he himself exists for his own glory. Rather, if anything, he is a redempto-maniac—one who, in order to save us from this corrupt and evil generation, must call us to the only uncorrupted, free-from-evil thing to which one can be called and demand that we give absolute attention to it. And that one thing is God himself. There is nothing else!
Our task is to proclaim a God-centered God with no thought of conflict between his love for sinners and glory for himself. This week, tell an unbeliever that God is God-centered, and he is love.