In Virtues: Skills of the Soul, Part 1, we identified the practicality theology as the study of God and then started diving into seven virtues as C.S. Lewis points to them in his book, Mere Christianity. We noted the importance of these virtues as a way of living for us to grow in the knowledge of God and the image of Christ. Finally, we met the Cardinal virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude, capable of being played out in lives of Christians and non-Christians, and now we have the great delight of looking at the theological virtues. These virtues differ from the Cardinal virtues in that only Christians can possess them. Like a secret code that only those with special access can perform. We have that access through the Holy Spirit, who makes these impossible sounding virtues a livable reality. As we move forward, remember that these virtues are not meant for our strength alone, but what is impossible with man is possible with God (Matthew 19:26).
The Theological Virtues: Charity (love), Hope and Faith.
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7
Imagine Charity as a motherly, seasoned woman, strong-willed and persistent. She understands that true love means keeping others’ best interests at heart, and she is not afraid to exercise ‘tough love’ when needed. Because of her true love, Charity is not always the most liked person, which is why when you first meet Charity she seems ‘cold,’ nothing like what you would have expected. But that is because you seeing a different definition of charity, but the Christian one is different. Once you get to know and understand Charity, you will find that she is the strongest loving, most enduring and evangelistic person you know. Charity does not love in the sense that she has strong emotion or passion for you, for her love is a state of will, not emotion. Charity knows that emotions change, but she also knows that emotional feelings will follow right actions. Therefore, Charity treats everyone as if she loves them, whether the feeling is there or not. The world treats certain people nice because it “likes” them, but Christian Charity treats everyone kindly and, in doing so, finds she likes more and more people. Charity knows God is love, and, seeking to reflect God’s image to the world, she makes her love constant and unchanging like His. When you talk with Charity you will find that she talks more about God than about herself, about how good God is and about how He is love. In doing so, she teaches people to love God not only by showing His love to others but by she herself loving God with her whole being.
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the greatest secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” (C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 9)
"For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have we wait for it patiently." Romans 8:24-25
Picture Hope as a passionate traveler, always looking ahead, always moving forward, driven by a deep longing from within. Hope believes that since nothing in this world can fulfill the longing she possesses then she must be made for another world. Just because Hope recognizes this unfulfilled desire and strives for its true fulfillment does not mean that this passer-by doesn’t recognize the blessings of this world. No, rather Hope is thankful for them but also is careful not to mistake them for the real thing, eternal things that are seen face to face rather than dimly or vailed. Therefore, it is Hope’s job to keep alive the desire for the true country, the life after this life, to press on to it and help others do the same. In this way the traveler goes through life with a constant expectation unshakable by doubt, knowing that everything done on the journey will matter in eternity.
“Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” (C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, book 3, Chapter 10)
Faith, Part One
"Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
See Faith as a complex beautiful being who, though you are blessed when you first meet her, you are most touched by her when you get to know her deeply. But just at first glance she is the embodiment of belief. She helps you understand the facts so that you respond correctly with belief. She represents a continual remembering of the truths of the Christian faith. Her constant awareness of Truth pushes her to cling to them even when it is inconvenient. She encourages daily study of the Scriptures and prayer in order to remind us of the good things we have in life, such as our standing with God, our salvation, and our spiritual gifts, which give us strength and encouragement to face the bad things throughout the day. Faith lives in acceptance of the gifts God has given us. She brings joy to God by accepting the gifts he gives her and eagerly awaiting the ones he promises to give in the future.
“Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to the things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” (C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 11)
Faith, Part Two
"But some will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds." James 2:18
In this sense we view Faith in her deeper and more concrete side of life. Faith does not just believe but puts belief into action; it is obvious that she believes all she confesses as she lives it out with deep conviction. As strong as she seems, Faith is completely dependent upon God. Total surrender marks her steps and every worry, care, and moment in her days is left to God. Her submission is not an act of the will but a relinquishing of control because she knows it is her only real option. The moment of surrender is not something she works herself up towards, nor is it something she fights for; rather her true surrender happens when she has nothing left, when she is completely vulnerable. Faith’s good works are the result of this kind of living. They are not a part of her salvation but are the result of it. Faith sees that her job is to work in tandem with God, reflecting His light to the world.
“All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, ‘You must do this. I can’t…. The sense in which a Christian leaves it to God is that he put all his trust in Christ: that Christ will somehow share with him the perfect human obedience which He carried out from His birth to His crucifixion: that Christ will make the man more like Himself and, in a sense make good his deficiencies…. Not hoping to get to heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” (C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 12)
These seven virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Fortitude, Charity, Hope and Faith, are here for our strengthening. They remind us of some of the most important aspects of our faith and practical application to live them out. These virtues build our character so that, as 2 Corinthians 8:21 says, “we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” Can we do it on our own strength? Of course not! It takes the grace of God to perfect our weakness and be our source of strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Impossible commands like these keep us in our correct position of dependence on God. Let these virtues serve as tools and reminders that you are a work in progress, for God is making you into something better than you could have imagined for yourself. He is transforming you into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. And though you will not be made complete here on earth, He is going to get you as far as He can. That is why, as seen in Romans 5:3-5, there are moments when you can almost see how God is working in you through the moments of struggle to produce in us character and help us to rely more on His life-giving strength: “Not only so, but we also glory in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”