27 noviembre 2011

Part 2: On Virtue

intro here.
part 3: on knowledge

recap: 1 Pet. 1 gives us a list of qualities that, if we practice them, we "will never fall".

My presuppositions: Not only do these qualities come from faith, they also strengthen it. They keep our faith from being ineffective, unfruitful, or generally good-for-nothing. They help us become farsighted and to remember we were cleansed from our former sins.
My questions: Why? How?

Quality One: Virtue

Virtue, according to Oxford, is "moral excellence; goodness." * Strong's lists this using as "arete" (a big deal for the Greeks) which is: 1) a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action; 1a) virtue, moral goodness; 2) any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity.

When I think of virtue, I also think of Proverbs 31: early riser, hard worker, trustworthy, compassionate, wise, kind, generous. Someone who demonstrates good stuff on the inside and outside.

*Not really catechized, the best i can expound upon the historical virtues is to say go read Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III. He lists them as being faith, hope, charity, prudence, temperence, justice, valor. (That's a translation from Spanish, the only version of the book I have.) I haven't read the book in a while, so I'm not going into depth on them.

Connection to faith:
"With the merciful, You will show Yourself merciful;
with the blameless man, You show Yourself blameless,
with the purified, You show Yourself pure;
and with the crooked, You make Yourself seem tortuous (twisted)"
To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure...
The pure in heart shall see God...
So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts... for My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.

You thought I was altogether like you. But..."

When we sin, we obscure our vision of God. We were made like Him, but we've spent many, many decisions trying to mar the family resemblance. Making ourselves familiar with sin, we cannot now look at ourselves and assume God is like us. We choose to understand evil, to advocate for the devil, to sympathize with the flesh (an unreliable narrator if there ever was one)... instead of understanding God, communing (having in common) with Christ, and reasoning with His Spirit.

But we don't have to. When we are born again, we receive a "new" nature... a new natural, a second childhood, a new relationship with the Father we were always meant to adore. We have a second (first?) chance to be human, really, really human, in a good way, and as God-similar as the quinessential man Himself, Christ Jesus, showed us we could be. And the new relationship means that instead of obeying the first impulse that pulses through our brains, we learn from God how to be, how to do, how to grow into ourselves... We don't even know what all that will look like, except to know that when Christ appears, we'll be like Him.

So we seek to be like Christ. We become imitators, as dear children, of our newfound Father. But the crazy thing is, like Lewis said, people usually become what they pretend to be. Women are not born nurturers; but give us some kids, we pretend to be motherly, and end up BEING, thinking, sounding like our own mothers in all sorts of ironic, unexpected ways. Leaders might have leaderly tendencies, but a whole lot of confidence is just "faking" it, until all of sudden, one doesn't have to fake anymore. Everybody else really does need to do what we tell them to do, and we're going to make sure they do and convince them to want to. Our habits make us... identities don't just form habits; it works vice-versa as well.

What's it to do with faith?
When we seek to live virtuously- not just conventionally, but really to do, love, think, want what is good for us and for all, so help us God- we'll find our brain, our soul, our selves are changed. Deciding to love others will become so quick that we won't even notice the decision; we'll think it automatic, sort of like Someone else we know whose every work is done in kindness. [Let me insert: when we imitate God's goodness, we need to think a lot about motive. When has God ever done anything out of guilt? Responsibility, yes. Guilt? No. Fear? No. Obligation? No. Duty, responsibility are fine as long as we do something because it's a part of who we are. It's a function of identity, not image. God upholds His character but is not out to gain anyone's approval. He does good because He is good, He loves good, He wants to see good, He loves to have us see good, so on. There's a lot to it; I haven't thought it all through. Why does God do good?] As we do good, we'll be thinking, "Now, why am I doing this?" and we'll see the good effects and understand, "Oh. That's why God likes this." As we stand resist evil, we'll see it's ugliness and desperate power struggle. "Oh. No wonder God burns against this stuff. And I used to crave this?!"

When we do right actions from a right heart, we'll find we understand God a whole lot more. Instead of wanting to mistreat someone, and feeling God is going to get us for it, we'll love that person, and understand how we'd hate for that person to have to deal with crabbiness, like that of which we are capable. His thoughts won't be so alien to us as before. Instead of thinking, " 'Sell all you have and give alms?!' Ouch, how harsh, how radical," we'll think, "Man, look at all this stuff. Is there anything good I can get out of it before it all burns? I won't miss it..." By being like Him, we'll start thinking like Him. And people who think alike, duh, understand each other.

God our Father, without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, will be more recognizable as we seek to become more recognizable as His children. We won't just say "Let God be true and every man a liar." We'll notice, more and more, "In the midst of liars, God is true!" We will become not just positionally on His side, but on His side by identity, by thought, by deed. Not having decided just once to trust Him to save us, we'll have trusted Him day after day to save us, to change us, to help us, to give us strength, to give us love, to shut up this whining old man, to grow into the new.

Faith will not be us leaping awkwardly  in the dark because we feel it's what we're supposed to do, or even because it's our only hope (what faith is at the beginning). Our faith will be a relieved jump through the dark to the One we recognize in a world of strangers, someone we understand in a senseless world. True virtue helps us never fall because it trains us how to jump instead .

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Blogger Theobald said...

1. Beautiful.

2. I think I left behind a couple of theological commentaries on Peter that you make me wish I could read just now. You on the other hand...

3. Just one disagreement, (though I can only speak from observation not experience), I disagree with:
"Women are not born nurturers;"
Every one I have ever met was a Mama-in-the-making from Day 1. (Unless they were brainwashed in college or had it burned out of them.) Up here I see motherhood start from about the time they turn a corn cob into a baby doll.

lunes, 28 noviembre, 2011  
Blogger berekkah said...

thanks for reading. i was thinking about your commentaries recently,too. they're in a box, right? :)

about the nurturers: maybe you're right about the "want" to nurture, but the "how," i think, is imitation, innovation, and practice.

domingo, 04 diciembre, 2011  

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