By my sister, from a class we were taking. 3/1/2017:
Lack of morality is running rampant in our nation, today. One only need turn on the TV to see the promotion of drugs, sex, abortion, lack of responsibility, and lack of virtue in general. Still, do we need virtue? Is taking back our virtue, our standard of acceptable morality, the way to fix things? Will it help us, as individuals as well as a nation, to recover from this moral dryness?
One Webster’s dictionary definition of virtue is,
“Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to moral laws . . .”
Virtue is like a moral code of conduct or the action of living up to that code. People’s “codes” may vary, but a few suggestions come to mind. Generosity, kindness, decorum, temperance, purity, marital loyalty, honesty, etc. Our country could use a little of that, right?
This brings me to my next question: Was Jesus virtuous?
Whoa, whoa! Stop. Of course Jesus was virtuous! He didn’t commit one sin–not one! I can’t even go one day without sinning. How much more virtuous can you get?
“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16 KJV)
You’ll notice the key word here is holy. Is there a difference between virtue and holiness? What is holiness?
John Eldredge talks about this in his book The Utter Relief of Holiness:
“For years I thought of holiness as something austere, spiritually elite, and frankly rather severe. Giving up worldly pleasures, innocent things such as sugar or music or fishing; living an entirely “spiritual” life; praying a lot; being a very good person. Something that only very old saints attain . . . Yet in order to make human beings what they are meant to be, the love of God seeks to make us whole and holy. In fact, the assumption of the New Testament is that you cannot become whole without becoming holy; nor can you become holy without becoming whole.”
He later goes on to cite Hebrews 12:7-13.
“‘Endure hardships as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.’”
Mr. Eldredge then says something very singular.
“ . . . Severity is not the point; discipline is not the point. The point is the restoration of your creation. Whatever holiness truly is, the effect of it is healing. That’s what it does to a person.”
When Jesus took our sins to the cross, He also gave us something in return: His holiness. Now God sees us not as we are, with our sin, but as we can and will be as He continues His work in us. Our accepting His gift of eternal life and salvation allows Him to gradually change our sin and chains to righteousness and freedom. It’s not that we don’t experience freedom and righteousness when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. He helps us to live it out through His holiness in us. Adhering to a moral code doesn’t do that for us. It doesn’t change us; it doesn’t make us good on the inside.
A nation’s society is made up of people. You can hold a standard up for them to follow, but that doesn’t help them to follow it. I may have a list of characteristics I want to live out; that doesn’t enable me to do so.
Matthew 5:20 “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Our righteousness has to be greater than the Pharisees’. They weren’t holy. They were concerned only with appearances, with outward shows of goodness. They adhered strictly to a moral code. They had virtue without holiness. Holiness is the true goodness that comes from God. God’s Spirit is called the Holy Spirit. The fruits of His Spirit are, “love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) What does this tell us? Holiness is the wellspring from which true virtue comes. It cannot be the other way around. We cannot acquire holiness through virtue. Anything less than God’s holiness is flawed–Pharisaic–and it’s putting a load on people’s backs that they can’t carry.
Here’s another reason why holiness is superior to earthly virtue. It’s a relief. Eldredge, in his book, says,
“Look at it this way: Ask the anorexic young girl how she would feel if she simply no longer struggled with food, diet, exercise–if she simply never even gave it another thought. . . . Ask the raging person what it would be like to be free of rage . . . Take the things you struggle with and ask yourself, ‘What would life be like if I never struggled with this again?’
“It would be an utter relief. An absolute, utter relief.”
Jesus didn’t struggle with sin. It couldn’t touch Him. His virtue came from an inner holiness that drew people to Him. Giving people a list of dos and don’ts will not help them become free from sin. Jesus helps them. He gives them His holiness. I consider holiness–Jesus–the answer to society’s problems today. He is the only way to be free–free from wanting to sin–free from even being able to sin. That is what I want for my life. Jesus’ freedom.
Thanks sis for letting me post this–Natasha.