Virtue: The Church You Want to Join

   If "church" does not make you better, review you choice of churches, or your soul. By better, I mean more virtuous, more helpful, more of a  benefit to the Citizenry of Heaven and the Nations of the Earth.

   Your soul is your responsibility, not that of your pastor or Sunday School teacher. You must work out your own salvation with "fear and trembling." The beginning of virtue is accountability, which is, in essence, the (very literal) fear of God.

   The fear (phobos) of God is a visceral recognition that the One to whom we must at last respond is the One Person in the Universe we never fool. We practice self-deceit when we act as though God is unaware of our foibles.

    Jesus told us we should not be afraid of those who could kill the body but we should fear the One who can consign body and soul to eternal separation from blessing. Jesus, who conquered His fear and despair (intensified self-doubt) did not hesitate to recognize the tendency of humans to fear one another in the temporal world a great deal more than we fear God, Who alone reigns over the temporal and the eternal.

   Sin-damaged humanity is not naturally virtuous. Scan all the books in all the libraries of all the world. The ethics section is full of advice on how to get along with the fellow next to you.

    We want to be good. We know we should be good. We just are not good. We have to join with God to fight what is bad in us.

   I still believe we must be remade by rebirth. This is a personal choice, exercised with the greatest difficulty considering our  very limited amount of spiritual free agency. I am sorry, my Arminian friend, but grace almost has to be irresistible to get a word in edge-wise.

   It is hard to be saved out of sin. It is harder to want to be saved out of sin. Sin, face it, is just fun. It feels so good, at least for awhile, to take the wheel and go where you want. The highway seems right but the end of the drive is destruction. You are not licensed to drive in the spiritual world. You are unsafe at any speed.

   For instance, you know greed is wrong, regardless of the point at which greed starts or how you define greed. The love of gain (money, mammon, temporal value) is the root cause of all evil but just how do you beat greed without becoming a navel-gazing, Walden-Pond dwelling naturalist? What is the place of private property in an increasingly crowded world?

   Your church ought to help you decide about matters of greed and selflessness. It ought to help you with matters of virtue. If your church lies to you, or fails to tell as much of the truth as is available, you need to rethink why you let spiritual leadership lie or obfuscate the truth.

   I will argue here for virtue. By virtue, I mean the attitudes and actions, the presuppositions and predispositions, the assets of spirit called character, taught by Jesus, the Christ. These are the moral premises on which the Kingdom of Heaven depends.

   I cannot say that government can legislate virtue, although all government certainly makes the attempt. I can say that good citizens make better governments. Good citizens will not tolerate poor government or evil laws forever.

   We just have a hard time deciding what is virtue and what is vice. We are tolerant, which is a virtue, we think, but all of us draw lines across which we will not carry our tolerance. We decide for virtue and against vice. We just need help living out one and leaving out the other.

   In the next few days, I want to set down some thoughts on virtue; working morality, with attitudes and presuppositions like courage, justice and love. I warn you again I think these things come from God, from the grace gift of God's divine Son, Jesus the Christ. My assumption is reborn persons make better citizens of earth and are the beneficiaries of heavenly citizenship, as well.

   There is less food and water to go around, less available medical care and less ground on which to stand on the earth. Your survival will depend on the virtue of your neighbor. His life depends on your virtue. Religious institutions, like the local congregation and the universal Church, should (indeed, must) help people of the earth grow in grace and knowledge and favor with one another. I want to make a small contribution to that discussion.

Opinions expressed here are my one, not those of the church I serve, or any other person or organization.




6 thoughts on “Virtue: The Church You Want to Join”

  1. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…somewhere, these things are referred to as a fruit, produced by the flourishing Spirit within us.
    …or, some such.
    I agree, that virtue is not attained, as much as given/fruited. Yet, to want it…that is a miracle in itself.

  2. Well it all sounds good – then my memory went back 10 short years and 1999 comes to mind. Y2K was upon us and the very church folk that have the words of life hoarded enough food and water for their families and bought guns and bullets to protect them from the choas that would ensue. I watched in amazement as the people with Hope turned into nut cases worried about personal survival.
    If we are to be a people of virtue then won’t we have to care more for others and less for ourselves.
    We must decrease and He must increase…hmmm

  3. Can’t have too many guns or bullets. (And, I make it a practise to only kill that which I am going to eat. Even though I eat a lot, I am not nor do I ever intend to be a cannibal!)

  4. Yet, Dougie makes a valid point. What in the world are we doing? We sin at about the same rate as the general population. We seem to fear death a good deal more than we fear God.
    Ah, thanks Tim.
    As for you Roy, I thought, “Yon Curbo has not a lean, but a hungry look.”

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