October 12, 2014.
We have come to the end of our journey through the Christian virtues as we discuss the fins virtue mentioned by Peter which is one of extreme importance in the Christian ideology. It is perhaps the foremost virtue, the foremost teaching and the core of Christianity itself. No pressure, right? I hope you have stuck with me through this journey and closely examined each of the virtues in effort to apply them to your life. I would like to reiterate once again that this series is not meant to imply that a one time reading and one day of application is enough to adequately master any one of these virtues. They are going to take time and effort if progress is to be made. These post serve merely as a humble reference (that is in no way all inclusive) to go back and reflect on as we tackle each virtue, one at a time. I believe that there is a reason that the virtues are listed out in the way and order they are, and following this plan would be wise. Remember that applying these virtues is not necessarily going to be easy, but it is indeed within our reach, for we have the power of Christ within us. That being said, let’s jump right into the final virtue which ties everything together.
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(II Peter 1:5-8)
As I stated before, I believe this virtue to be at the very core of Christianity. Love. What is love, anyway? I hope to explain love in it’s biblical sense as opposed to the concept of love that has been formed by the society around us. Society’s concept of love holds some aspects of truth, but is not at all the full truth of love that is presented in the word of God. Yet it is the love of God that we must understand in order to show this love on earth.
So what does the bible say about love? I would want to start no other place than the words of our Lord and what He answered as the greatest command.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The greatest command? Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. Sure, we might be able to quote this verse backwards and forwards, but do we really grasp what it means? We are to love God with our whole being. With all our heart- love Him emotionally; all our mind- love Him rationally; all our soul- love Him with our very essence. I don’t even know if I could explain it further. I encourage you to dwell on that for a few minutes before going further, my less important words will still be here, Lord willing, when you get back. What’s the second? Love your neighbor as yourself. I don’t know about you, but that is a hard thing to do. I love myself a lot. Think about what that means. Think about the things you would do for yourself, and then ask yourself if you do those things for your neighbor? Do you make sure your neighbor is well fed? Do you make sure they have a place to stay and clothes to wear? Now, obviously we can’t be super-hero and fix everyone’s problems, but we can do what we can, if that makes sense.
As a note here I would like to point out what this verse does not teach that so many try to make it say. Jesus is not saying “As long as you love me, you can do whatever you want because love is the only thing that matters.” True love for Christ will lead us into all righteousness indeed, that’s why He says that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments, but this is not typically what we refer to when we think of the word “love.” Nor is love the only thing that matters. It is the most important thing, yes, but not the only thing. We still have to obey Christ, following His will, which is a biblical definition of love:
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
(I John 5:2-4)
I believe that love is placed last in this list because it is one of the hardest virtues to master. We have some great examples of people who truly seemed to have mastered this virtue. Aside from Christ, I believe Paul is one of the best examples of how we should love one another. Paul showed a great amount of love to the churches he helped establish, and even the ones he had never visited before. This was the man that said he would no longer eat meat if it caused his brother to stumble. That’s dedication to love right there. He writes to the Corinthians through tears because he knows what he has to say could cause them to get very upset with him, possibly to the point of cutting ties, yet he sends the letter anyway in hopes that they will see their error and repent that they might be saved. Paul loved that church. You can see his love for Israel and his fellow Jewish brothers who had not accepted Christ in the ninth chapter of Romans. And perhaps one of the passages that I find most revealing about the love Christians should have for one another is found in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!”
(I Corinthians 6:1-8)
“Why not rather be wronged for the sake of your brother?” What a statement! But it is not one that should be surprising. Jesus said “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (ref. Luke 6:27-28). This goes beyond “turning the other cheek.” We are indeed to turn the other cheek, but then we are to do good those who hate us. That is an active statement, not passive. Bless those who curse us! That is actually wishing well on them! Praying for those who abuse us. What? Where’s the “protect yourself”? Where’s the “Just avoid them”? No, this was not a new commandment when Paul or John wrote about it in their letters, but it did seem to be one that people had a hard time with. Do we not still have a hard time with it today?
So what is love? Well, I’m just going to quote Paul on this one since I don’t think my words are sufficient.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
(I Corinthians 13:4-8a)
Read that at least three more times and dwell on it. Paul is telling us what love is. Patient, kind, not envious, arrogant, or rude, ect. When we think about love, we have a much softer definition typically. We think of this warm feeling we get in our chest from time to time or when we really care about something. But love is so much more than that. It is higher than that. Love is a choice, a definite choice, that we make towards something. If I love you, it will be because I make the conscious effort to love you, regardless of that tingling feeling I may or may not get. Love is much more solid than our feelings.
So what is love? Love is sacrifice. Love is hard work. Love is not easy. Again I ask, which of the virtues have been easy? But love is the hinge of all other commandments. If you love God, you will do His will. If you love your neighbor, you will do no harm to them but actively seek to help them. That is why love is the greatest command. Everything else, though still important, will fall into place if you have true love to begin with. Love never ends.
I could go on about love, but I would rather you hear the word of God on the subject rather than my words. If you are interested, you can read some of the other posts that I have done on the subject of love. I hope this journey though the virtues has helped you. I hope you have been working, or are going to start working, on mastering each of the virtues in sequence. It will take diligence, but you can do it with the proper foundation, and this foundation being Christ. Keep trying, even if you fail. Just get back up and start pushing though again. In the end it will produce the character that we are called to have, for it is Christ who guides our life. My prayer is for us all to reach the glory and the knowledge of Christ, the son of the living God, and to walk in the light with Him forever more. May He be glorified forever, amen.
Suggested Daily Reading: I Corinthians 13, I John 1-5.
Grace and peace.