Virtue (Psalm 103:17;131; Prov. 8:13; Col. 3:12-17; Phil. 2:14-18; 4:8; 1 Timothy 4:12; 5:22; Tit.1:15; Heb.10:5-10; 2 Peter 1:3-5; 2:9) is the application of being good from both the conscious will to do what is right and from personal responsibility. It is typically considered as moral goodness, right standards, strength and courage, and modesty and purity-all done in excellence. This is very true, but Colossians makes the definition even more lucid: "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience," then says they are put together with forgiveness and love, and that they operate in the parameters of peace and wisdom. Wisdom and peace promote Virtue and love, and forgiveness demonstrates this Virtue that we all need to have.
Vice, Dishonesty, Disinterest, Immorality, and Evilness are the opposites. These types of rotten characters prevent people from seeing what God wants them to see in you! Being dishonest or caving into sin may be the common approach we see in our society, but these things will tear your life down and remove goodness from you, then neuter your effective use in the lives of others. We cannot model Virtue when our character is not pointing people to Him. In leadership, it will destroy the Church. Rotten leadership is more destructive than a legion of demons as it corrupts godly principles and displays a skewed understanding of our call to follow Christ. Vise seeks its own and not the Lord.
We acquire Virtue by our faith, our obedience to Christ, being persistent in Him, and clothing ourselves in Him. Virtue functions when we are focusing our thoughts and feelings on Christ and we exercise appropriate actions that are in line with God's precepts. It is not forcing ethics upon others-especially your spouse; rather, it is exhibiting a lifestyle so that others can understand it and desire it, too. We obtain Virtue from holding onto the call and teachings of our Lord. This leads us to a higher level where few people desire to go, but where, as Christians, we must go! It is the effectiveness of our beliefs in actions that are good. If your relationship with God is not growing, then your Virtue is not working!
What about when you are faced with a dilemma or a situation that begs the questions, what should I do? How should I behave? This is the age old philosophical problem of ethics (the practice of Virtue). Ethics is the "moral principles" or the code of conduct that tells us what to do. Ethics and values enable us to pursue and model the ideals in which we believe. To build our society and Church on compassion, honesty, prudence, courage, generosity, integrity, fairness, fidelity, and self-control is essential for Church and societal success. These are all examples of Virtues that create an atmosphere of kindness and cooperation. Such things benefit not only the person giving them, but all those around them. In fact, ethics and Virtue are more of a benefit to others than they are to us! They are the unselfish work of the Christian.
Philosophers long ago-from the classic Greeks, Aristotle and Plato, to modern theorists-realized the importance of ethics. Without it, society unwinds, becomes corrupt and rowdy, and, then, soon fails. Jesus Himself stated the importance of ethics by saying, so in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12). Immanuel Kant said, "Everyone is obligated to act only in ways that respect the human dignity and moral rights of all persons." Basically, philosophers and Jesus-the greatest philosopher-are saying, I need to treat others as I would want them to treat me, and everyone must be obliged to do whatever will achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. In so doing, society, business, and even the Church will flourish!
Many people today will do all they can to skirt these principles and forsake personal responsibility. And, they seem to get away with it-from politicians to business leaders-until they are caught and/or it negatively affects another person or group. The American utility giant, Enron, flourished in their bankrupt ethics and made billions of dollars until it un-winded and went financially bankrupt. Then people cried, foul. As Christians, we must not wait. When our lives or situations unwind negatively, we must always strive to first do what is right!
Christian ethics is Virtue; it is the standard of moral conduct that we, as Christians, model to our families and others around us. It is learning God's ways and being obedient; then, we uphold them by our example. Being Virtuous means we are doing what is right. It is always doing what is right, even when no one else seems to be doing it. It is not about what others are doing or saying; it is about our relationship to Christ and our responsibility to be the example He has called us to be-regardless of others, our culture, or our situation. When we start to compromise, saying, everyone else is doing it, then, we are doing wrong! This is not Christian, nor is it ethical!
Virtue is the display monitor to the computer of your spiritual growth and attitude. Your conduct will display what is really in your heart. You may be able to fake it for awhile, but the monitor will refresh by the situations you are in and it will display the rottenness within you-the rottenness we all have-which is our sinful nature. We can only keep our display showing God's goodness by allowing the Spirit to infuse, dominate, and control our lives. If not, the vices of life will knock on our door, and we will then open that door because Virtue is absent from our mindset-or, at least, it is tied up by our wishes and desires. Our desire must be for God and nothing else; then Virtue will spring from the depths of His living water within us (John 4:10)!
When Virtue is functioning in us properly, we will be making a difference in the lives of others so they may want it, too. It will show them that their life, society, and church can be better by being good. It will shine to the work of the Spirit and the Spirit will use your life as an example to others. We will be then teaching His precepts-not by our words, but by our example-to our friends, co-workers, children, and church. They will see us making wise choices in life and then, perhaps, they will commit themselves to obeying God's Word. When you obey, you are trusting; then the God-honoring principles will dispense from you. You will be able to hold to His moral standards and be on guard against destructive influences and behaviors. Virtue is more paramount than what career we should pursue, what major to sign up for, who we should date or marry, or what color socks we should put on. The perfection of knowing God's will is to follow God's character.
Consistency must be our hallmark because Virtue is not something we do occasionally. Virtue is not meant for only one certain place or time, such as at church. It is not supposed to be put on hold when it inconveniences us or someone else, such as at our work or in our desire for wealth. Virtue is a lifestyle that follows us wherever we go, and with whomever we associate. It is character "oozing" out of us. Integrity is the trademark that produces honesty, truthfulness, faithfulness, authenticity, substance, and reliability, which translates into our moral fiber.
Is the Character of Virtue working in you?
Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this character, the
fruit of Virtue, from God's most precious Word, by examining the passages below. Now ask yourself:
- How do I exhibit Virtue in my daily life?
- What can I do to develop a better willingness to be Virtuous toward others?
- What blocks Virtue from working, and being exhibited in me?
- How can I make Virtue function better, stronger, and more quickly, even in times of uncertainly and stress?
· Here are positive examples from Scripture: Dan. 1:8; Prov. 31:10-31; Matt. 25: 14-17; Acts 6:8; 1 Tim. 5:2.
· Here are negative examples from Scripture: 1 Sam. 24:1-15; Prov. 25:28; Matt. 25: 18; 18:21-35; 1 Tim. 5:8.
For more information and help see Whatever happened to Virtue?
1. How would you define Virtue? Are you a Virtuous person? If so, what about in situations that may seem gray?
2. What part does Virtue play in your relationships with church members, friends, co-workers, and family? Have you encouraged people whom you know or work with to consider morality by your personal example (not just words)?
3. How does being dishonest counteract Christian ethics? What is the cost to others (God, family, friends, neighbors, church family, co-workers, etc.) when you are a person who is focused on Vice? What about the "little white lie?"
4. What happens to your relationship with God, with others, and with the opportunities God gives you, when you swear, tell little lies, or tell dirty jokes?
5. When have you been filled with Virtue the most?
6. In what situation did you fail to be good when you should have?
7. Read Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9:3-19. What issue is in your life that would improve with more Virtue?
8. Think through the steps you need to take to put Virtue into action in a specific instance. Ask yourself, where is Virtue not functioning properly in my attitudes and what can I do about it? How can I monitor myself so those little white lies do not come out? What can I do to be prepared to stand up for Christian principles? How will I handle sexual temptations, peer pressure, or refusal to listen to or participate in gossip while trying to live by God's standards? A lack of Virtue can be the result of "spiritual warfare." Ask God to reclaim any ground that Satan has taken over, and then tear down that stronghold (what has been given to Satan that belongs to God).
© 2004, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org