Originally posted in 2021
Maybe it is just me but I feel like there is a lack of virtue in the world. Although there are many people who strive to be good and pure, the world stands in opposition and teaches that virtuousness is outdated. The world's stance is to throw morals to the wind and do what you feel is right. The world tells us our way is right and that we should be serving ourselves first. As followers of Christ, we know that couldn't be further from the truth. We hold ourselves to the commandments that say we should serve no other gods but God Himself, we shouldn’t lie, murder, or covet. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard and strive to be more like Jesus daily. Christians are called to be in the world but not of the world. That means although we live in the world we are not doing as the world says we should. We are following the ways of God that were given to us through the Bible and through the holy spirit that lives in us. In John 17:14, Jesus is praying to God and says, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”
I tell you all of this to help you see that Christians are called to be different. We are called to stand out and stand for God despite being hated or ridiculed for our beliefs. One way we stand out is being virtuous in a world that is selfish. That brought me to the question of what is virtue and how do I live that kind of life. I knew that virtue was having a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards but I wanted to dig deeper. So of course the first thing I did was do a quick google search of a list of virtues. I was overwhelmed with a list of hundreds of character traits that seem redundant. Another list I found was made up of only four moral virtues called the cardinal (hinge) virtues. These virtues were; prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
If you have read any of my previous posts you know that I am not one to use big SAT words, I prefer smaller concise words. So I combined these two lists to create what I call the ABCs of virtue. The list is made up of the words I felt captured the idea of being virtuous. Each one is as important as the last.
Acceptance of others who are different from us. (Hebrews 13:2) The world has always been so divided and this past year has truly brought to light where we have been drawing the battle lines in our hearts. In God’s design, there is no difference in the color of our skin or political party. we should be accepting and loving like God.
Beauty inside and out. We should strive to take care of the bodies God has given us. (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Creativity, use the gifts God has given you to further the Kingdom of God. (Exodus 35:10) I can attest to how close you feel to God when you use the gifts He has given you for the right reason.
Detachment from the ways of the world and from your old sinful self. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Enthusiasm and excitement to serve God and to share His love with others. (Matthew 5:12)
Flexibility, things change and we have to be willing to hold what we want with an open fist because God’s way is so much better than our way. (Colossians 3:2)
Generosity, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35. What we give now we will receive back in heaven. We can look at giving as an investment into our heavenly bank account.
Humor comes from the Lord and when you get to know Him well you will begin to see just how funny He is. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
Innocence, we should do our best to remain innocent and away from the sins of the world. In Mark 10:13-16, God called to have childlike faith.
Joyfulness, The Bible talks a lot about remaining joyful even in the toughest of times. (Romans 12:12)
Kindness, We are not to judge but to be kind to everyone. (Ephesians 4:32)
Loyalty makes me think of Ruth and her loyalty to her mother-in-law. She completely changed her life to remain with her Mother-In-Law and had complete dedication to her. (Ruth 1:16-17)
Modesty has changed drastically over the past fifty years but it has not changed in the eyes of the Lord. Both women and men should be respected in their apparel and strive not to become a stumbling block for others. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Noble, we come from a royal family, the family of God. He has claimed us as His own and has called us His children, we should be acting as such. (John 1:12)
Openness, being open and vulnerable to others is difficult. We want to hide our flaws so that others think we are perfect but God tells us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. (James 5:16)
Purity, a lot of people, Christians included are not going to want to hear this but we are called to remain pure in our conduct. What does this mean… Keep your heart, soul, and body pure for the one God intends for you to marry. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”
Questioning, we should question everything the world tells us and check it against God’s ways. God’s way is always right, loving, and just. (1 John 4:1)
Restraint, the way of the world can look really good sometimes but it always leads to destruction. We need to keep ourselves from being a part of any evil that is in the world. (Romans 12:2)
Silent, I struggle a lot with this one but there is definitely a time to keep silent and just be still with God. (Psalms 46:10)
Thrifty, what we have is not our own, for it has been given to us as a blessing from God. We should not store up earthly treasures because we cannot take anything with us when we leave this earth. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Unity, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 puts it this way, we are all different parts of one body of Christ. Each part is just as important as the others.
Vitality means we are full of the spirit of God and He leads us. (Romans 8:9)
Wonder, God has created everything in this world to work together perfectly. Just think about how your body works perfectly without much effort from you. (Psalms 139:13) Allow yourself to be amazed by what God has created.
Xenodochial, don’t worry I had to look this word up as well. Xenodochial means to be friendly to strangers, in other words, it is a fancy word that means friendly that's starts with an X. This reminds me of Matthew 25:35-40 when Jesus talks about the final judgment and says whatever we have done to least of these is what we have done for God.
Yearning for more knowledge and to grow closer to the Lord daily. (Joshua 1:8)
Zeal is excitement for the Lord and excitement to further the Kingdom of God. (Romans 12:11)
I give you the ABCs of virtue so that you can study them and put them into practice, but The Bible also gives us many ways to practice being virtuous as well. First, we can start by looking at the men and women in The Bible that were highlighted for having desirable character traits. People such as David, Job, Paul, Ruth, Mary, and the Proverbs 31 woman. These people embodied integrity, faith, obedience, discipline, loyalty, etc.
We can learn from Galatians 5:19-23 about the acts of the flesh and where they lead as well as the fruits of the spirit, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” I don’t know about you but the acts of the flesh sound a lot like the sinful nature of the world. I would much rather have the latter of this list and be loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, and gentle.
Paul gives us a look at virtue and virtuous living in his letter to the Phillippians. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Paul says to focus our mind on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. I believe when we focus on these things we are happier and will produce the fruit of the spirit that we talked about above.
I know I have given you a lot to think about and a lot of character traits to work on but I want to encourage you that we are all a work in progress. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:23-24. I want to introduce you to the concept of just trying. We know from the verse above that we are going to fall short and not be able to meet God’s standard but we are still supposed to try. When we fail we ask for forgiveness and try again. God’s grace is powerful enough to pick us up and give us as many chances as we need.
If you are still stuck and don’t know where to start, ponder on 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Just like the famous WWDJ bracelets reminded us in the 90s, focus on love. Loving God, others and yourself no matter what wrongs you felt have been done to you just chose love and the rest will fall into place.