God is Love and Holiness

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

Eph. 4:15 NLT

We tend to cast God in our own image. We can only experience one thought, one feeling, or carry out one act at a time (Psalm 121). We often assume that since we are limited than God must be so constrained. However, God can be merciful and holy at the same time (Exodus 34:6-7). He can be gracious and righteous simultaneously. The Lord can be loving and performing judgment in the same act.

Believers, and non-Christians, tend to emphasize one character attribute of God over and against his other qualities. We focus on love while ignoring to need to walk in the Spirit and obey the clear dictates of scripture (Gal. 5:16). Or, we emphasize the commands of God without acknowledging the Lord’s graciousness that enables us to obey. However, this either/or kind of Christian is a false dichotomy. Love without compassion or righteousness without mercy are not our only choices.

As Christ lives in us, we trust his Holy Spirit to make Christ known in and through us. As we keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:24-25), we will understand when to have compassion on the hurting and when to take a stand on God’s law. As believers, there is no need to compromise Christian conviction and no requirement to be hard hearted enforcers of God’s law. We can act in love and holiness at the same time because a loving and holy God lives in us (John 16:12-14).

If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise. But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty. And it is important to show forth beauty before a lost world and a lost generation. All too often young people have not been wrong in saying that the church is ugly. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we are called upon to show to a watching world and to our own young people that the church is something beautiful.

Several years ago I wrestled with the question of what was wrong with much of the church that stood for purity. I came to the conclusion that in the flesh we can stress purity without love or we can stress the love of God without purity, but that in the flesh we cannot stress both simultaneously. In order to exhibit both simultaneously, we must look moment by moment to the work of Christ, to the work of the Holy Spirit. Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our moment-by-moment lives as we begin to exhibit simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.

Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church before the Watching World (Downers Grove, 1971), 63.

HT: Ray Ortlund