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“The Highest Virtue”Categories: Christian character, discipleship, Midweek FR articles, philosophy, theology
“…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…” (2 Peter 1:5)
In contrast to the writings of past centuries, there is much less discussion of virtue in today’s psychology and self-help literature than there used to be. The cultivation of virtues like humility, wit, diligence, patriotism, courage, moderation, justice, and piety was a chief aim of past generations’ parents, philosophers, and schools. And so it should still be among Christians.
So if you had to boil it down, what would you say is the chief virtue that Christianity should instill in us? Among many that could be listed—purity, self-control, love, diligence, patience, kindness, humility, etc—I believe that righteous love is the greatest. Love like God’s own pure, righteous, passionate, and intense love ought to be the defining characteristic of all of our relationships. Paul told the Colossians to create habits and hearts defined by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, peace, and thankfulness (Col. 3:12-13, 15). And then he said, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14)
But from the way that many Christians talk and act, one would think that the chief virtue of Christianity is caution. We can be hindered from helping the needy by “what someone might think” if they saw us associating with them. We can be hindered from offering passionate, whole-self worship to God by “what someone might think” if they saw us exhibiting more than stoic assent in a church assembly. We can be hindered from teaching the fullness of truth about God’s grace by “what someone might think” if they hear hear that message and misunderstand its true nature.
The chief virtue—love—often tends to act in ways that are more risky than they are cautious. So, are we cultivating the virtue of love above all else? When it’s wise to exhibit both love and caution, we should do that. But when one of them must serve the other, let’s give priority to the one that most deserves it.
- Dan Lankford, minister