The Christian Virtue

 

Let us ponder on the importance of Christian virtues. Do faith in Jesus Christ suffice? Or, are we called to live according to the richness of the attributes that the Holy Spirit bestowed upon us to bear fruits for the glory of God?

A virtue is a right inner disposition, and a disposition is a tendency to act in certain ways. Disposition is more basic, lasting and pervasive than the particular motive or intention behind a certain action. It differs from a sudden impulse in being a settled habit of mind, an internalized and often reflective trait. Virtues are general character traits that provide inner sanctions on our particular motives, intentions and outward conduct.

There are many key ideas in this definition, but for our purposes here I want to focus on three points. First, a virtue is a tendency, stemming from who you are at your core level, to act in certain ways. Second, it is not simply, therefore, an impulse, good or bad, but rather a settled habit of mind. Third, it has a function of providing judgment on motives and outward actions. Virtues, then, relate to who we are as people; our character.

Following the Greek thoughts of Aristotle and the Stoics, they argued that moral virtue was developed according to human achievement and that the goal in mind was personal happiness. Others argued that moral virtue was inherent, the natural disposition of the soul. But both of these ideas, while sharing some similarities with Christianity, are in fact at odds with Christianity’s essential ethical orientation. The “virtues” which the NT espouses have God’s character as their source, the Spirit as their efficient cause in the believer, Christ as their model, and love as their goal. They are developed in the context of the spiritual life which are certainly not inherent and they can be learned, but not apart from Christ.

The Christian virtues of faith, hope, love, wisdom, temperance, joy, courage, faithfulness, peace, and whatever other virtue there is, are learned in relationships with God (and the circumstances he brings into our lives) and others. By their very nature Christian virtues are relational; they cannot be learned in a vacuum. We learn to trust God deeper by joyfully going through the trials of life; wisdom by dealing with difficult people, courage by facing dangerous circumstances and people, faithfulness by constancy in promise keeping, patience by restraining anger, and humility by serving others. God has called us both into his body and to be salt and light in the world; he has called us into an interesting set of relationships which he uses and will always use to grow us. Personal discipleship of another person is one particular kind of relationship in which dispositions of faithfulness, gentleness, truth telling, patience, courage, etc should be esteemed and encouraged

Prayer: Lord Jesus, your grace is sufficient for me. Grant me peace and the virtues to walk in your faithful steps, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen