Neither doing nor knowing but Being
What is the righteousness which is of God by faith?
It is simply the thing that God wants every man to be, wrought out in him by constant obedient contact with God himself. It is not an attribute either of God or man, but a fact of character in God and in man. It is God’s righteousness wrought out in us, so that as He is righteous, we too are righteous.
It does not consist in obeying this or that law, not even the keeping of every law, so that no hairsbreadth did we run counter to one of them. To be righteous is to be such a heart, soul, mind, and will, as would recoil with horror from the lightest possible breach of any law of God. It is to be so in love with what is fair and right as to make it impossible for a person to do anything that is less than absolutely righteous. It is not the love of righteousness in the abstract that makes anyone righteous, but such a love of fair play toward everyone with whom we come in contact, that anything less than fulfilling, with a clear joy, our divine relation to him or her, is impossible.
More powerful than all powers is being. To be is more powerful than even to do. Action may be hypocrisy, but being is the thing in itself and is the parent of action.
If by neglect of its wings an eagle should sink to become a sparrow, it would then recognize only the laws of sparrow life. For the sparrows of humanity do not generally believe in a consuming fire and an outer darkness, where all that will be left is an ever renewed “alas!” The “alas” is that they neglected their wings, neglected to try to see beyond their own horizons, neglected to do the words of Him who alone is life.
It is truth and not serenity that a man’s nature requires of him. It is help, not the leaving of cards at doors, that will be recognized as the test. It is love, and no amount of flattery, that will prosper. Differences as wide as that between a gentleman and a cad will contract to a hairsbreadth in that day. The customs of the trade and the picking of pockets will go together, with the greater excuse for the greater need and less knowledge. Liars the most gentlemanly and the most rowdy will go as liars just the same.
The first shall be last and the last first.
George MacDonald, Discovering the Character of God, edited by Michael R. Phillips, 175-176.