An Experiment in Virtue
The following are some virtues you may feel lead to incorporate into your life this week. My hope is that the virtues and vices listed here and that you see on the corresponding cards can be helpful tools to identify areas in your life that maybe you want or need to grow in. Or maybe you see the vice that opposes the virtue and realize this is something you struggle with and now you know what virtue you need to begin to pray about and cultivate in your life with God's help and grace.
Print out the card if you want. Stick it somewhere prominent to help you remember what you're focusing on.
Remember, virtues are holy habits. To develop these virtues, these holy habits in your life you will need to be intentional, prayerful and relentless in your pursuit of Jesus, who perfectly lived each of these virtues.
NT Wright say that learning to live the virtious life is like learning a new language. Yep, it's hard but will be exactly what you need in order to feel like your primary citizenship is in heaven, which it is if you're a Christian.
NOTE: Over this past year a team of folks at the Church I worked at lead our 6th grade students through a class we called Virtues. A group of women who have been studying Christian Virtue for years developed this curriculum and we spent the year walking students through it. It was a smashing success! Room to grow and things to dial in but it was great. Most of what I will share here (specifically the cards) was taken from this resource.
I won't give a really through explanation here. Do some more research, look up some scripture and thing about how these virtue play themselves out in your own life. And then most importantly, pray about God helping you to develop these virtues in your everyday, ordinary life!
We see this all over the scripture but I don't think courage often crosses our mind as a virtue. But we think about fear A LOT!
This is one of those vices that might more properly highlight your need for the corresponding virtue, in this case courage.
So what are you afraid of? Are there fears that dominate you life? That freeze you and keep you from being bold in your faith, vulnerable in your relationships, committed in your community? Do you feel unsafe and insecure because of fear. Maybe it's time you let Jesus begin to help you withthe virtue of courage!
Another note on courage. I don't think courage is the absence of fear but it is the ability to stand in the face of fear and feel safe, secure and empower by the Holy Spirit of God. More on fear soon (it's next week theme)!
Forgiveness / Grudges
I remember reading Matthew 6:14 & 15 for the first time and looking up (as if God is up in the sky or something) and saying, "really". It's so harsh and emphatic but it's there. Forgiveness isn't something that is optional. NT Wright says that forgiveness is like breathing. We first must breath in the breath of God, the forgiveness and grace of God and then we are able to exhale forgiveness to other, even people who it may be hard to forgive or don't deserve to be forgiven. But Jesus seems to tell us that forgiveness isn't an optional virtue, it's one we must constantly be developing in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness is also nuanced. Forgiving isn't necessarily forgetting. It seems often forgiving is more about the forgiver then the forgiven. Forgiveness is something we have all been give but it's also something that has been withheld from us at times. It would be helpful to think about how you feel when a friend forgave you and when a friend withheld forgiveness. Meditate on those feelings and see what it prompts in your heart and mind.
Then there is the vice = the one who holds a grudge. Are you more know for forgiving or for holding onto a negative emotions and hurt feelings. Do you have a running scorecard in your head of all your friends and enemies. Tallying up wrongs against you and nice things done to you. If you live by the scoreboard this is a virtue you need to learn to live and practice.
Prudence / Impulsivity
Prudence was a fun one for me to dig into. It's not a word we often use in our everyday vocabulary but it is something we do practice one way or an other. Because prudence is essentially wise and Godly decision making.
We are called to make wise and Godly decision in big things and also in the small things. I think we often forget about the small things and think we can save our relying on God, seeking God, being guided by God's word for the big things, the real big things in life. But the virtue of prudence is about building a habit of seeking God in every decision, especially the small things so that when the big decisions come you already have a holy habit of practice a Godly, Spirit lead path of discernment and decision making.
Here are 2 tips I share with my students to practice and grow into the virtue of prudence in your everyday life. #1. Know where you live, where your primary residence is. If you were driving a car in England you but forgot and were driving like you were in the USA you would be in big trouble! Car would be honking and driving straight at you! But if you keep in mind that your in London, know that cars driving on the "wrong" or other side of the street you would make the wise decision to drive like they drive. Or if you were in Mexico on a mission trip you wouldn't go the kitchen sink and pour a glass of water. You've got to keep in mind where you are when making even the most normal everyday decisions. Our primary citizenship is in heaven we are told. And when make decisions we must remember that. Let the rules and ethics of the Kingdom of God be our guide in how we treat people, how me eat with people, how we work with people, pretty much how we do everything. #2. Know who your king is. Your king is Jesus! No other rule or authority is more important that him in your life. We respect, honor and pray for our countries president or queen or ruling officials (depending on where you live) but always and every time we make our final decision based off what our king has told us through the scripture, community, tradition and Holy Spirit. First and foremost we live under the loving authority of King Jesus and all we say and do should be influence by that reality.
You will run into some of these idea in the weeks to come but if you want a sneak peak and great resource to growing in prudence or wise and Godly decision making skip ahead in your Ordinary Time devo to page 80 and check out the 8 steps for discerning the will of God and making good decisions.
If you want to go deeper into this I would suggest reading the following scripture and talking with some friends about how prudence and discernment was made in these Bible stories. Think about how the 2 tips above may have been implemented in these stories.
Mark 10:17-22 // Mark 1:16-20 // Luke 10:30-35 // Luke 15:11-32 // Matthew 25:14-28 // Acts 5:27-42 (These stories all include some decision making, some prudence. But in some of these stories the decisions made are difficult and maybe not what we would have chosen. But in each of these stories prudence is exemplified in one way or another and we can learn from each story.)
Scripture to check out (more specifically on prudence) Matthew 6:1, Deuteronomy 6:3, 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, (pretty much all of the Proverbs but these specifically) Proverbs 10 & Proverbs 14 (especially verse 15), Amos 5:13
Generosity / Stinginess
I might say closed handed living. I love the picture of a person living with their hands open, receive all the gifts and graces of God but also giving as freely as they have received. If you read the early chapters of Act and pay attention to the these early Christians and the kind of community they were participating in, you will see this virtue of generosity on display in some amazing ways. Act 2:42-47)
Gratitude / Unthankful
Dictionary.com say the opposite of gratitude is ingratitude. In our culture I thing corresponding vice to gratitude might be entitlement. This sense that you deserve certain rights and privileges even if it is at the expense of other. Gratitude tries to help us see that everything is a gift. Thanks be to God!
Scripture to check out Genesis 17, 1 Chron. 16:8, Hebrews 12:28, Psalm 100, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Psalm 95, Philippians 4:4-9
I think humbly is a tricky one. If you think you got it you probably don't and if you think you don't you probably do. Hmmm. It's one of those virtues to be cultivated in community and really rooted in love for God and love for your neighbor. When you do those things well through the power of the Holy Spirit you will them be able to love yourself in healthy and Godly ways. Humility isn't hating yourself it's Philippians 2, "counting others more significant than yourselves".
Scripture to check out Philippians 2:1-11, I Peter 5:5-6, Matthew 18:4, Matthew 23:12, Proverbs 15:33, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 25:9, Proverbs 3:34, Matthew 11:29, Ephesians 4:2, James 4:10
Some old timers like John Wesley often used the word happy as an equivalent to joy. Most time these days we would frown on that because of the shallow modern notion of being "happy". This is also why I'm not sure sorrow is the best vice to connect to this virtue. Maybe a hopeful sorrow or a despairing sorrow. Think through this yourself, what is the vice that keeps you from a deep and profound joy, the kind of joy you can experience in the midst of difficulty and sadness.
Scripture to check out Psalm 68:3, Psalm 21:6, Proverbs 12:20, Isaiah 35:10, Ecclesiastes 3:12, James 5:13, Hebrews 12:2, 1 Peter 1:8
If there is a virtue that Christian leaders need to embrace and grow in these days it the virtue of integrity. We see pastors and leaders falling into sin and scandal around every corner. All of us have influence and leadership in some capacity, we all need to always be growing in integrity and honest. What we do in private should line us in an increasing way with what we do in public.
Scripture to check out Romans 12:2, Philippians 3:12-21 (19), Colossians 3:1-17, Psalm 143:10, Matthew 6:1-4
Love / Selfishness
We just spent a week talking about love, growing in love and letting real, authentic, Christ centered love be a growing part of our life. This kind of growing, authentic love is a virtue, a holy habit we are all called to grow into. If you need some refreshers turn back a few pages in your Ordinary Time book but spend some time thinking about how love might be a growing holy habit in your life.
Scripture to check out Deuteronomy 6:5-10 & 7:9, Romans 8:35; 37-40, 1 Corinthians 13 (of course), John 15:1-17, 1 John 2:1-17 & 3:11-24
Meekness / Uncontrolled Anger
I might put the vice to meekness as "last word-itis". It's kinda like arthritis but instead of your bones hurting you pride hurts if you don't get the last word. There are a lot of nuances to meekness and a lot of interpretations as to what it means but my favorite and the one I think lines up the best with the sermon on the mount and the beatitude of "blessed are the meek" is the interpretation that meekness is all about proclaiming you truth and not needing to have the last work or for everybody to think you are right about any given issue. Jesus was said be meek by many of the biblical authors. My perspective on this is that Jesus proclaimed his truth and with confidence and security in his fathers love, he left it at that. He didn't need to win the argument or beat people over the head with this truth. He stated is, giving it to the hearer as a gift and then let them do with it as they will. This was his exemplification of meekness.
Scripture to check out Matthew 5:5, 2 Corinthians 10:1, Matthew 11:29-30, Ephesians 4:1-2, Titus 3:2, Psalm 22:26, Psalm 37:9-11
It was pointed out to me that the scripture says more about patience then any other virtue, excluding love. I take that to mean patience is a pretty important virtue. I think that is only increasingly true in your fast-food, tech world. This idea that we must wait on the Lord, seek him and his will instead of just going out and getting and doing what we want when we want it. Patience is truly a virtue we all should desire to grow into. Sabbath would be an important part of this conversation. And if you're a parent, try and see your kids as a gift—patient producers even—in your life! Lines and traffic could be seen the same way!
Scripture to check out Exodus 34:5-9, 2 Peter 3:1-18, Colossians 1:9-14 & 3:12, 2 Corinthians 6:4-6, Luke 21:19, Romans 8:25, Revelation 1:9 (The scripture of patience are endless... just do a little searching on Bible Gateway and you'll find a ton!)