For several days the Lord keeps pulling me back to Philippians 1 and I’m fascinated trying to figure out the connection between discerning love and righteousness. The NET Bible says: “And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
That’s what I love about God’s Word to us. No matter how many times you’ve read or studied a passage, it just keeps holding treasures. I’ve even written a book about Philippians, in fact, 2 books, and I’m still looking at it with fresh eyes. Or it could be that my senior mind forgets what I’d learned before. LOL
This passage says that if our love abounds in knowledge and insight, we will be righteous and as a result of that, sincere and blameless when we see Jesus. But how does discerning and knowledgeable love result in being able to decide what is best? Making the best choices is a great definition of righteousness, don’t you think?
The first thing I thought of was having a kind of love for other people that is discerning—in other words, understanding what really is the best for that person. Sometimes we think we’re loving a person but we’re not actually loving them well. Maybe we’re rescuing them or enabling them or taking away the opportunity for them to make their own choices. Maybe we are loving them in order to appear a good and loving person rather than keeping the other person’s best interests in mind. I can see how making loving choices– that are truly loving for that person– is “doing what is best.”
Then I looked at Philippians 1:9-11 in the NASB: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
And in The Message: “So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.”
This passage is all about motives. Working backwards, our righteousness comes from making wise choices, which comes from having a right motive of loving for the right reasons. Much loving isn’t always well loving. Much loving isn’t always appropriate loving. Much loving isn’t always based in real knowledge and discernment. “Un-well” loving doesn’t bring approval of that which is excellent. It approves that which is weak and unwise and un-good for the person who is supposedly being loved.
But if we love much and well, we won’t have wrong motives. Wrong motives are motives like:
*doing it for our benefit,
*for us looking good,
*for us feeling good about ourselves because we think we’ve made the person feel good and thus we feel good about ourselves.
If we don’t have wrong motives, we will be making righteous choices. And God will approve of what we’ve done because it’s been about Him and not ourselves.
My favorite story along these lines is how I was worried when 14 year old son Mark flew across country to go to the FCA golf camp. He had to change planes in Dallas. I just knew he would not know how to find his flight even though I tried to explain about the monitor. I worried and at 2pm when I anticipated him calling me to say he’d missed his connecting flight, the Lord whispered in my heart, “You want him to fail so that he’ll need you.” At first I was horrified to think that. How bad of me. But then I knew it was true. I wanted to be involved in his life and be needed. That’s not loving well. My worry said I was more important than him needing God. I confessed my “un-well” love, which wasn’t love at all because I didn’t want his best.
It’s amazing how stealthily un-loving love can seem righteous. But discerning, righteous love wants a person’s best. It has nothing to do with ourselves. And sometimes real “good and appropriate love” makes hard choices. People call it tough love. It’s allowing a person to make unwise choices so that the consequences that God allows will hopefully draw them closer to God—not us. Rescuing love doesn’t want them to suffer because then it’ll appear we were unkind to not step in. Or we’ll hurt emotionally because we’re worried about them. Psalm 19:19 speaks the truth: “A man of great anger will bear the penalty, For if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again” (NASB).
Oh, Lord, help us to love with discernment and appropriateness for then we’ll make righteous choices and be found blameless and sincere at your coming.