What is God's Primary Motivating Value?

2022 Jan 18

Romans 12 tells us that Jesus best represents God to us. The primary value that Jesus represented to us was that of a sacrificial love for others. Because this is the value that motivated Jesus we can know that this value is God’s motivating value (John 3:16, I John 4:8).

However, some might say that God’s primary motivating value is justice. Yes, God is just. However, seeing justice as God’s primary motivator is a mistake.

Mercy vs Judgement

As James says:

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James‬ ‭2:8, 12-13‬ ‭NIV

God’s royal law is love, and it is this law that gives freedom. Justice, however, comes at a cost because an injustice creates a debt owed by the offender. When God is the one that is offended (by sin), God’s mercy triumphs over God’s justice because God personally absorbs the cost of justice. Justice is paid, but not by the offender (the sinner); the sin is forgiven. This is able to happen only because love is God's primary motivating value. In a just world without love, however, judgement would consistently triumph over mercy.

If a human is the one that is offended but they were motivated with love like God's, they also would be motivated to personally absorb the cost of justice. Justice again is paid - by the offended. So then by keeping the royal law, we also like God are able to act with mercy triumphing over judgement. The love of God through us enables us to be merciful like God is.

The evidence of love, mercy and forgiveness to others in our life shows our likeness to God. Repeating: this characteristic is what shows others that we are like God! It shows that because we have received mercy from God that we are not under judgement from God, therefore we are freed to not judge others.

So, a paraphrase of James:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law of love that makes you free. Judgment with mercy is shown to those who through love have learned to be merciful. In this way, mercy triumphs over judgment.


Jesus taught that this value of sacrificial love in the lives of people is the metric by which we can know if they are a Christian (John 13:34-35). And it is to be our primary motivating value because we are to be like Jesus. Sacrificial love in us is the evidence that we are followers of Jesus. We are to be motivated like Jesus; we are to be motivated like God.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8 NIV

God's primary motivating value is beneficial love.


The value system concepts and perspective on the gospel that are on this page are based on ideas from the work of Darren Twa, pastor at Life Fellowship and author of several books including God's Value System.