Vices In Disguise
What is a Christian to do? This question can only be answered in an attitude of joy. Yes, there is much suffering in the world, indeed, in our own lives, but a Christian is by nature a person who is filled with three very important virtues: faith, hope, and love. These are often referred to as the Theological Virtues. These virtues do not come about as the result of some kind of stoic determination on our part, rather, they are given by God freely and generously directly into the souls of those who are faithful. They are the virtues that make it possible for us to live as true children of God. Any virtue is the result of forming habits that are always directed toward the good. These virtues enable us not only to do good, but to give the best of ourselves in all that we do. Paul is exhorting the Philippians, and us, to think only about the good, and to direct ourselves toward it in every way.
So much of human life is quite the opposite of this though. As in the time of Paul, it seems, today, that we are surrounded by various energies and actions that present themselves as virtues, but are in reality, nothing more than well disguised vices. We are taught in a thousand different ways to be competitive, to win, no matter the means. We are cynically taught that every thing and every person has a price, that human life is cheap and expendable. We are taught that wealth and fame are the pinnacles of life, and that the infinite dignity and value of every human being is now determined arbitrarily by either the limits (or fashions) of ever-changing material laws, or worse, by situational ethics. What is a Christian to do?
Well, Paul has given us the most appropriate answer to that question in today’s verse. The answer is that, as Christians, we are not to succumb to the “wisdoms” of the world. Rather, we are to embrace what we have been taught about the wisdom of God, which will allow us to develop the virtuous behaviors that will make it possible for us to live joyful lives, even in the midst of the madness of our world. We have reason to be joyful, after all. The life of Jesus Christ is the reason for our joy. He has shown us what the love of God looks like, what it does, and we have received the pledge of his Holy Spirit to inspire our actions. We are not alone. The One who is Love is with us, here and now.
What is the attitude we need to have? We need to develop and attitude of joy. Paul exhorts us to pursue all those things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely, that are admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy and to do so in this attitude of joyfulness. How are we able to do this? We are able to do this because of God’s freely given graces to us in the form of the virtues of faith, hope and love. We can pursue these things because we have faith in the reality that God is good, that he made all things good and beautiful, especially humanity. We are able to pursue them because we believe that God gave human beings the intellect, the freedom, and the will to know, to understand, and to choose all of these things. We can do this because we believe that God’s mercy is for all of his children and that his salvation is open to all who “pick up their crosses and follow Jesus.” This is the reason for our joyful hope. This is also the reason why Christians ought to be known for their joyful love. For it is love that created the world; it is love that has redeemed it; and it is love that graces all things that are oriented toward the good here and now.
Lord, make us true instruments of your graces in this world. Help us always to recognize and to discriminate more clearly between what is true and false, good and evil, in all that we think, say and do in our lives. Help us to be known by our faith, our hope, and our love, so that others might be drawn to you through these three things. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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