One thing that has encouraged me from John Piper is that he talks about beginning every day with the work of getting out of his sark and into the Spirit. Today, that felt unusually difficult, and that’s the way I presented myself to Father.
I very quickly began talking to him about the verse before me, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16) and found myself once again meditating on the Beatitudes for guidance. I wasn’t feeling very righteous, so what hope was there in my prayers doing any good (even as I write this I see how demoralizing that is, and how Satan would love to keep us thinking such things and feeding those thoughts to our hearts in order to destroy the work of God in our souls)?
First, I was reminded that the reason “blessed are the merciful” comes after the blessings of poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness, is because, when a person is truly satisfied with the righteousness that is by faith, they know they have been immersed in the mercy of God, and so they become merciful people.
Which then challenged things the other way around, that all the people who have not shown me mercy could not truly know the mercies of God. Which means this is a freedom issue. If we are not merciful towards one another, something inside us has not felt God’s mercy in the way that is fully satisfied by the righteousness of God that is by faith (hence always trying to be good Christians).
Then I found myself wondering why the focus was on hungering for righteousness leading us to become merciful people with no mention of agapè. I knew that agapè is central to our identity in Christ, and I was sure that becoming merciful people would be an expression of agapè. I just wondered why it wasn’t stated.
This led me to type “righteousness” and “love” in biblegateway to see how the Scriptures present these realities together. I was blessed with what I found (especially keeping in mind Hebrew parallelism that “rhymes” thoughts instead of words).
What I learned in this is that righteousness and love are like colors of the spectrum that can be distinguished through the prism of God’s word, but are otherwise indistinguishable. You will always find one with the other. In fact, if you find one, it is because of the other.
Here is a synopsis of the Scriptures I looked at showing how God’s righteousness and love work together:
- God’s righteousness and justice are parallel to his steadfast love (“He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.” ~ Psalm 33:5)
- God showing his steadfast love is parallel to showing his righteousness (Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! ~ Psalm 36:10)
- Steadfast love and faithfulness are parallel to righteousness and peace (Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. ~ Psalm 85:10)
- Righteousness and justice are parallel to steadfast love and faithfulness (Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. ~ Psalm 89:14)
- Steadfast love is parallel to righteousness (But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. ~ Psalm 103:17-18)
- Steadfast love is parallel to faithfulness, justice and righteousness (…then a throne will be established in steadfast love, and on it will sit in faithfulness in the tent of David one who judges and seeks justice and is swift to do righteousness. ~ Isaiah 16:5)
- Steadfast love, justice and righteousness are what Yahweh delights in and practices (Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” ~ Jeremiah 9:23-24)
- Righteousness, justice and faithfulness are parallel to steadfast love and mercy (And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. ~ Hosea 2:19-20)
- Sowing righteousness reaps steadfast love, therefore we are to prepare our hearts (break up the fallow ground) and seek Yahweh. As he rains righteousness upon us, the righteousness we have sown will reap steadfast love (wow!) (Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. ~ Hosea 10:12)
- Practicing righteousness is synonymous with loving one another (By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. ~ 1 John 3:10)
Conclusion: those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are hungering and thirsting for everything it means to be like Jesus, which is why agapè is front and center in the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church. When we agapè one another earnestly, that is what covers everything we do in the church in spite of the multitude of sins that are ready to hinder us at every turn.
Why is this so encouraging to me today? Because the Beatitudes remind me that we do not become righteous and loving by trying, but by trusting. When we trust God as he exposes our poverty, trust him as he brings us to mourn what is wrong with us, trust him when we have to meekly admit we can’t fix ourselves, trust him when we can’t stop hungering and thirsting for a righteousness we do not have, we will see him satisfy us with the righteousness of faith, which will make us so aware in our hearts of the deep realities of his mercy and agapè towards us that we become merciful and agapèing people ourselves.
So, as I face the prospects of this day, with each relational dynamic that may present itself, accepting my weakness in light of his strength is a good thing. Perhaps I needed all this to help me be a little child joining my Father in what he is doing rather than trying to be the good Christian who makes things happen.
PS: imagine the health we would experience in our souls if these were the things our minds truly believed and felt about God’s righteousness and love, and fed these wonderful thoughts and feelings to our hearts so that our hearts could pump them all the way through our inner beings for the transformation of our very lives!
© 2019 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)