We are called to Virtue
Virtue is not the talk of the town these days; in fact it is depicted in our culture as weak and useless. It is the butt of jokes. It is forgotten as part of a perceived bygone era filled with contempt and arrogance. To be a person of character is to be alone and endure criticism by the world and even by some so-called Christians. Virtue calls us higher to a level where few people desire to go, because it is an assault against the self will. It flies in the face what we expect and desire to do and to be. People today do not see the relativism and purpose of virtue. Yet it is so sweet when it is working, so comforting to be in a higher purpose than we are. Just as a young person enlists in the military to be apart of something bigger than they so it is when we are living virtuous lives.
Even though the polls and the news reports give testimony that virtue is dead, or at least has no intrinsic value today, people do know what it is. All you have to do is watch a 60 minutes type of news show where they catch someone in the act of doing something wrong. Watch how they cower away from the camera. How they deny their deeds with a look on their faces I cannot describe. It is something you have to see for yourself. People may claim virtue is dead as one famous college professor taught, but when his car was stolen, he wanted swift justice. But a wise, cocky young person of his gave his professor back his own words of it being relative, and that professor all he could do was get mad. He came face to face with the flaw of his logic and turned to frustration and arrogance as his comfort.
If you cheat someone they get upset! Why, if it is just relative? If there is no virtue? People do know it and can give you crisp and clean definitions such as honesty, courage, loyalty, hard work, friendship, perseverance, discipline, reliability, compassion, and even faith. When you are dishonest with a friend they become hurt. If you are always saying you will do something and never come through, you will lose your friends. If you are in politics and ignore the less fortunate, you will lose your office. When you slack off at work, people notice. If you are a soldier or police officer and run away from a fight you will be condemned. If you give up too easy at a simple task, others will ridicule you. If you have no self-discipline and just constantly party people see it as fun for a while, but soon it will be viewed with contempt. If you say you will feed someone's dog and you don't you are scorned as being irresponsible. If you are a person who has no conviction and believes in nothing, people will not trust you.
So society does indeed know virtue well. As a society we just do not like the ties of responsibility, because we want to be free from any kind of constraints. And virtue is a big constrainer. It forces us to do as Webster's defines for us, to act with potency and courage.
So what is Biblical virtue?
This passage in Colossians makes the definition clear: "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience", then says they are put together with, forgiveness and love, and that they operate in the parameters of peace and wisdom. Because wisdom and peace promote virtue and love and forgiveness demonstrates this virtue we all need to have.
So the virtue is a fruit that comes from the tree of love that is fruited with wisdom, pruned with peace, watered with forgiveness producing the sweet fruits of "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience".
Virtue cannot come from any tree that does not have the exemplary aspects of love, peace and forgiveness. The Bible tells us to clothe ourselves with them. Not just for their design and style, nor their warmth and comfort that they do have. But to cover our naked sin nature that gets in the way of His call. And because of that sinful nature we have to be abiding in our Lord Jesus Christ who covers us with His clothes so we can be virtuous.
We see this in the presidency of Bill Clinton, whom the public gave the highest approval rating of any president, yet his behavior was the most despicable in U.S. history. People like to see a separation between performance and values. God calls us to merge the two as one, our behavior must be from the values He sets. If we did so dare practice virtue in our culture we would have a taste of heaven on earth, a place of comfort and security.
We need to see that anything that assaults our morality as a hostile enemy who is out to get us. If a movie or book or any act we do does not strengthen us it will pummel us. When we recognize the pummel as tearing us down or moving us in the wrong direction we gain virtue. When we do not recognize the pounding waves of acid corroding who we are to be, our virtue and vitality weakens and commences to dissolve. Our tree of faith and virtue will gain rot and slowly die.
God sees perfection as love, that since He loves us, we should respond in return. And that love is to seek Him, and when we seek Him we love Him, when we honor Him we seek Him. Virtue does not just happen. We do not wake up one day with it, nor do we even receive it when we become Christians. It becomes available, it is in our grasps to open, it is there for us to use, but it does not come naturally. We have to seek it out.
Thoughts on Virtue
- We acquire virtue by our faith, obedience in Christ and being persistent in Him, clothing ourselves in Him. "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Is the mark of perfection and what His will is.
- Virtue is more paramount than what career we should pursue or what major to sign up for, who shall I date or marry, or what color socks should I put on. The perfection of knowing God's will is to fallow God's character.
· Thus, the more we follow His character and produce virtue the more we are in His will.
· Suffering is Virtue
· Whatever we do it must be for His glory. Even when we are in a world that does not recognize it.
Because God does and He is our Lord and the ultimate One we are to please. Remember God does not want our sacrifices, the prophet Samuel told King Saul, but He does want obedience to His will. Hebrews tells us what honors our Lord:
"Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, `Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.' "First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all". (Heb. 10:5-10)
· We have to ask ourselves as a Christian what is our main reason and purpose? Are we looking for His favor and perfection? Or are we too busy chasing a plan that will not fulfill us or please Him? Which worker will please the father, and which worker are you striving to be? Why should we even bother to be a Christian if we are not set up to please Him? What good would we be, what example would we set to others?
· It is better to be a Christian who firmly engages in the behavior that pleases Him.
· The Christian who does as they please and try to seek His will, will be disappointed and frustrated, and will end up disillusioned and lost. See John 6:35-40
· Virtue exists whether those around us acknowledge it or ridicule it.
· Our faith and life needs to feed upon our Lord.
· Our virtue comes from Him, as the will for us to seek and to be. All that we are must come from Him. Because only Christ can satisfy our deepest longings and give us purpose.
When we focus solely upon our own means and ways we are in fact rejecting God's will, desperately trying to find a substitute. But that substitute will not last or be real in the end. All that this behavior will accomplish is to further us away from His perfect and pleasing will.
"…but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me." (John 14:31)
To do the will of God is the prime goal of the Christian life. To seek His will is to do His will, and when we are obeying His precepts we are doing His will. When we do this in the midst of confusion and uncertainty we become crushed. Our will either surrenders and pours out sweet wine, or we fight and squeeze out bitterness and shame. We will either lead, follow or get out of the way. We will lead ourselves to pride and contempt, or we will give up bitter and disillusioned, or we will learn what life is all about. Following Christ.
When we are in search of needs and desires and go to our Lord for His advice we become frustrated because we tend, at least I do, to seek specifics. Sometimes God will give you what you seek, mostly He is in wait for our adoration. We look to specifics; He seeks us and our devotion that is demonstrated in virtue.
Our prayer life should reflect us seeing how to live more Christ like in character with humility, patience, wisdom and so forth. The more we are honest about our call and engage in its endeavor, the more of a blessing we are to Him and others around us. This must captivate our imaginations and desires so we would rather be 'a door keeper' in His house then to live anywhere else. That we would be horrified to gain all of the worlds riches and ignore His call. We would rather be a worm under a shoe, than an eagle soaring, if it is His will we be the worm and not the eagle. Because we would soar in vain triumph and exercise vanity rather than virtue. If God wants us to be the worm, than we are much better off to do so and be that worm for His glory. If we try to soar without Him, we fly to ourselves without meaning and purpose, and crash upon ourselves.
· Virtue is not something we do occasionally. Virtue is not meant for only one certain place such as church. It is not supposed to be put on hold when it inconveniences us or another such as at our work.
· Virtue is a lifestyle that follows us around wherever we go, and whoever we are with. It is character oozing out of us. Integrity is the trademark that produces honesty, truthfulness, faithfulness, authenticity, substance, and reliability, which translates into our moral fiber.
· Consistency must be our hallmark.
· When we surrender our will to God, we are in fact giving Him everything, all we are and all we have and all that we could be. We may give God our money, our time and our talents, but if we hold back who we are, we are giving Him nothing. God does not need our money or our time or our gifts and talents, what He wants is our obedience through virtue, our will surrendered.
· Our greatest treasure is who we are in Christ, not wealth or affluence, not ability or position, whether we are homeless and unemployed or president of the U.S., we are nothing without Him.
And when times of suffering and confusion come upon us we will thirst and wither away without His nourishment. We will learn nothing and become detestable in His sight. How sad and what a waste to go through a trial and come out without learning and growing, seizing His opportunity to be virtuous. We would have gone through all that pain and adversity for nothing, just meaningless emptiness. Can you imagine anything sadder?
· Do we give God what we have, or do we give Him all that we are?
Psalm 131 tells us:
"My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore."