Chapter 21 – The Beauty of Virtue – Forgiveness, Kindness and Compassion

Forgiveness:  to pardon, to cease from exacting payment for a debt (monetary or personal offense) and foregoing all demands for recompense

Kindness:  beyond common politeness or customary courtesies, the otherwise unnecessary words or deeds shown another simply to give cheer, ease a burden, or provide a simple pleasure

Compassion:  sincere and sympathetic concern for the well being of others, especially towards those suffering bodily, emotional, mental, or spiritual ailments; the expressions of a merciful spirit

 

The beauty of virtue is beholding a vision of God (Mt.5:8).  We glimpse the awesome grandeur of God when we encounter the virtues of forgiveness, kindness and compassion.  We light up the world with the splendor of His loving-kindness when we practice them.  Holding them dear in our hearts combats the evil of their fleshly opposites that include the cold, shallow, hard-heartedness of vengeance, cruelty and indifference.  These virtues comprise a bright and colorful kaleidoscope-like menagerie of many other virtues.   In their beauty is the miraculous mystery of restorative healing powers.  Those who practice these virtues will exude an inner beauty more meaningful and lasting than any natural or contrived external appearance.  Forgiveness perpetuates loving and caring relationships by removing the obstacles that interfere with their continuance.  Kindness plants the seeds of goodness that replenish and restore hope.  Compassion is the spirit that moves a soul to take action to alleviate the many and various manifestations of pain, suffering and anguish.

 

Forgiveness

 

Forgiveness is a pardon for an offense.  To forgive another does not mean that the offense somehow becomes acceptable, nor does it convey the notion that there was no injury or harm.  Forgiveness involves taking into account all the injuries resulting from an offense and all the repercussions in their entirety, those currently known and those yet to be realized, and then pardoning the perpetrator from all penalties we might wish to exact as compensation.  We are to forgive all perceived offenses regardless of their legitimacy or the nature of the existence of the offender.  We forgive others, we forgive ourselves, we forgive the inanimate, and should we hold a grudge despite His perfection, we forgive God.  Anything that stirs anger or wrath is an occasion to practice the virtue of forgiveness (Eph.4:25-27).  Though our anger may be justified, another’s sin becomes our sin of omission when we disobediently fail to forgive as God has instructed (Mt.6:14-15).  It is no sin to be the victim of someone’s ungodliness, but if we do anything other than show the goodness of God to those who sin against us, we risk letting their sin motivate us to sin in return.

 

Forgiveness is personal and not to be equated with the customary penalties given to those who commit felonious crimes; foregoing the penal process under the guise of forgiveness compromises justice and honesty by failing to hold the guilty accountable.  Teaching accountability often motivates the offender to repentance and personal rehabilitation.  Incarceration also serves to prevent the creation of more victims by not allowing the serious transgressors to prey freely upon their community.  Forgiveness and prison time for felons are not contradictory, but complementary and collectively necessary as recourse for criminal behavior.

 

Forgiveness first requires the desire for goodness as its underlying motivation, then mercy to see it through to completion, and lastly a sense of justice that we might be at peace knowing that the debts we forgive others do not compensate for the enormity of our indebtedness to God for His forgiveness of our sins (Mt.18:21-35).  The internal struggles we encounter when attempting to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply, helps us to appreciate the depth of the compassion and mercy of God who forgives all our sins against Him.  Failure to forgive others as God has forgiven us expresses ingratitude and indifference towards God when placed against the backdrop of His forgiveness as demonstrated by the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross.  A habit of forgiveness, as it is with learning and practicing all virtues, spares us difficult life lessons designed specifically to highlight the hardness of our hearts and the need for His continual grace (Mt.19:8).   Our humble obedience to forgive merits His grace; the defiance of pride and exalting selfish concerns puts us in a position to be humbled by God (Pr.3:34, Mt.23:12, 1Pe.5:5, Jas.4:6).  The flesh can easily manufacture a host of rationalizations and reasons to withhold forgiveness from those who have done us harm, but none are valid in the presence of God.  Likewise, we must learn to accept forgiveness from God and others lest we exist in constant state of self-condemnation, hating ourselves, purposely isolating and excluding ourselves from receiving His blessings.  The inability to accept forgiveness begins a process of devaluing the sanctity of human life and invites a host of demons armed with self-destructive and self-penalizing behaviors such as insobriety, eating disorders, self-mutilation, indiscriminate sexual activity, recklessness and abusiveness towards self or others.  They come when souls consciously or sub-consciously believe they need to be punished for an offense and are unworthy of the good things life has to offer; accepting forgiveness extinguishes these thoughts.  Failure to accept forgiveness may be symptomatic of a perverse sense of pride and self-deception.  To believe a soul is unforgivable erroneously elevates the power and ugliness of sin above the power and beauty of God.

 

Without forgiveness, we are held in spiritual bondage, unable to grow, unable to approach the beauty of God, unable to let go of the past that we might enjoy a more rewarding present.  Without forgiveness, old wounds fester for a lifetime without ever healing properly; crippling our Christian walk and leaving obstacles in our path that continually interfere with our spiritual growth.  Without forgiveness, we persist in letting little irritations gnaw away at the quality of our most important relationships.  Without forgiveness, we compromise all manner of goodness and mercy that our spirit longs to experience, and do so simply because we fail to rid our lives of the leach-like demons of vengeance, hatred, avoidance and acute self-interest; demons that constantly regurgitate their foul bile into the streams of our thoughts and motivations.  Without forgiveness, we remove ourselves from a position to receive a multitude of His blessings because our Lord commands us to forgive, and lack of obedience always prevents us from rightly being in His will and intimately knowing His goodness.  Without forgiveness, our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical conditions collectively disintegrate due to the persistent anxiety and stress generated by stewing resentments and simmering hostilities (Ps.6, Pr.14:30).

In contrast, a life of forgiveness is one of peace.  Instead of the hostile and violent thoughts that accompany a lack of forgiveness, there are actions motivated by the goodness of God.  Forgiveness provides us freedom in that it allows us to let go of the past and make the most of our present, liberating us from the entanglements of sin, putting an end to potential lifelong tit-for-tat ungodliness and the habit of compounding another’s sin with our own.  When we live a life of forgiveness, searching our souls regularly and being on guard for when it is needed in the immediacy of the moment, we cultivate the goodness of God within us.  Forgiveness enriches our lives with healthy and loving relationships, removing the desire to ostracize ourselves or others, and eliminating the self-inflicted loneliness and isolation that accompanies a life lacking forgiveness.  By forgiving others, we acquaint ourselves experientially with our forgiving Father in Heaven as we begin to learn firsthand what it takes to forgive everyone of everything.  We are also freed from our ties to any unhealthy habits that serve to encumber our walk with Christ.  We are likewise freed from the burdens of guilt and remorse, past, present or ongoing.  Forgiveness removes the desire for revenge that gnaws away at any budding goodness within us.  Forgiveness soothes the emotional disturbances and mental anguish that can cause all manner of anxiety and personality disorders, from sleeplessness, depression, and twitches to suicidal thoughts, histrionics and anti-social traits.

 

To forgive someone, they need not be present.  To go to another and tell them we forgive them is to accuse them of an offense for which they may or may not be willing to accept culpability.  Such confrontation is not part of the forgiveness process.  To forgive someone, we define and delineate the offense, tally all the damage done without exaggeration, detail how it hurt us, and lastly, accurately record the repercussions, those already experienced and any potential fallout we may envision.  Then, with the help and grace of God, we pardon the offender, and from that moment forward, we cease to view that person as indebted to us.  Should we later find ourselves feeling resentments, ill will or open hostilities towards them, we simply remind ourselves that we have forgiven them, and cease the train of thought.  To heal a relationship wholly, all persons involved must be willing to own up to their transgressions, seek forgiveness and then be willing to make amends.  Not all relationships will be restored or preserved by our forgiveness alone and we must learn to accept this lest we fall prey to believing all failed relationships are our fault.  We forgive solely because God has forgiven us and has commanded us to do the same (Mt.18:21-22, Eph.4:31-32).  Though there are many benefits associated with forgiveness, any motivation other than a simple desire to please God only serves to pollute purity with self-serving intent.  Our obedience in forgiveness preserves the joy of life in His presence, perpetuates the flow of His grace and blessing towards us, and likewise frees us from bondage to a particular transgression.  By maintaining an attitude of forgiveness throughout the day, we learn to forgive as God has forgiven us, and learn to love the otherwise unlovable with an unencumbered, unburdened heart in the same manner as God loves us.

 

If we are honest with ourselves and have learned to own up to our shortcomings, we will know that there are times when we need to seek another’s forgiveness and make amends.  To believe otherwise compromises our integrity and our worship due to our disobedience and our failure to abide in the Truth (Mt.5:23-24, Rom.3:23).  Whenever we have wronged another, we have occasion to seek forgiveness and make amends.  To do so, we must be careful to confess only our transgressions and accept all blame for what we have done; we are always responsible for our behavior regardless of circumstances or another’s actions.  After simply stating what we hope to be forgiven for, we express our regrets and ask them to forgive us.  Merely saying, “I’m sorry” without specifically asking for forgiveness for our misdeed, doesn’t give others the opportunity to forgive us and we cannot assume that they have, or will in the future, if we don’t ask.  Also, when seeking forgiveness, we need to repent of the deed, specifically and generically, then be prepared to make amends for any harm we have done.  Whether the reparations require monetary or behavioral means, without this willingness the sincerity of our compunction is questionable.  Also, making amends is a powerful reinforcement of our identity as children of God, severing all links to past ungodliness, assisting in breaking sinful habits and becoming free of self-punishing behaviors.  Prior to approaching another to confess any serious wrongdoings, we should always consult our spiritual mentor since our intimate involvement undoubtedly prejudices our objectivity, creating the potential for compounding our sins and worsening the situation, especially when there are accomplices.  Should we have trouble owning up to our shortcomings or suffer from the unwillingness to seek forgiveness, we need to backtrack (see chapters 6 and 15), uncover the source of our rebellions and address these issues first.

 

We also need to learn how to forgive ourselves so that we might fully know the true healing power of forgiveness.  The need here is especially acute if a soul has come to Christ late in life or otherwise has many regrets concerning their past.  When we sin, we not only offend God, we hurt others and ourselves.  We can be blinded to the pain and damage we inflict due to a form of denial born of narcissism.  For instance, when we see someone else hurt another person, we are immediately able to categorize him or her as mean and hurtful.  However, when we’re the one inflicting the pain, the tendency is to rationalize our actions as being justified, and then cling to the lie that we don’t need to seek forgiveness.  However, God is not mocked, our conscience knows the truth and subconsciously we are classifying ourselves as a mean and hurtful monster, as one who is undeserving of the love of God, His goodness or His blessings.  When this happens, we then begin a cycle of self-condemnation, excluding ourselves from His presence and the good things otherwise available to us, and courting the demons that bring self-punishing and self-destructive behaviors.  To prevent this, we humbly learn to own up to our faults, repent of them, and in the same breath, forgive ourselves in the same manner we forgive others.  This is how we learn to be free of both sinful habits and the anguish of perpetual guilt.  Those who are unacquainted with self-forgiveness should start with relatively small and immediate issues, summoning faith and grace in obedience to His will.  Once we’re accustomed to the forgiveness process and understand the internal struggles and emotional issues associated with owning up to the ugliness of our sin, we then need to take a lifelong inventory of our transgressions.  We do this by specifically noting how our misdeeds have in turn hurt us, especially if they cause us to believe things about ourselves that are inconsistent with our identity as children of God.  Once the sin and repercussions have been tallied, we repent of them and thank God for His forgiveness, forgive others where need be, and likewise forgive ourselves.  This exercise, often done with age appropriate photographs to assist with our memories and historical perspective, has remarkable healing power in that it frees us from our past failings and allows us to conform more easily to the spirit of Christ within us presently.  When addressing our inventory of past transgressions, it helps to remember that God loves us unconditionally, without regard for our behavior.  Also, keep in mind that we are growing constantly and need to be able to separate the person we’re becoming from the person we’ve been in the past.

 

Now, while these exercises in forgiveness are fresh in the mind, pause and practice forgiving others and self.  If there is difficulty creating a list of offenses, begin with birth and segment life into five-year spans, and list the traumatic experiences from each age range.  Then discern where there may be a need for forgiveness in these events and proceed with the exercise.

 

Kindness

 

Kindness is like a spiritual gateway through which varieties of virtues are given means to flow.  Kindness is like the mast of a mighty sailing ship in that it supports the virtuous sails that provide the power to propel the craft.  Kindness is like the backbone of man, when it is compromised, the virtuous handiworks of his arms and legs cease to function.  Kindness is like an ever-flowing spring that provides the water of life for a multitude of living things that are our virtues. Kindness is like a gentle breeze on a hot summer day, tirelessly refreshing all who are touched by it without being given anything in return to replenish it.  Kindness originates from the power and energy of the Holy Spirit which flows through us, girding all our deeds with His goodness and mercy and willing sacrifice, giving life to humility, selflessness, charity, generosity and purity, all the while bringing the joy of hope to the thankful, praising God.

 

To exhibit kindness, is to summon the virtues of compassion, selflessness, faith, joy and charity, then channel them into an expression of His goodness and mercy, performed with simple and honest intent, with the purest of motives and without any expectation of results or returns.  Kindness affirms the dignity of others by surpassing and outshining all cultural and social norms of politeness, cordiality and etiquette.  Kindness likewise restores hope and offers encouragement to those worn down by the prevalence of the flesh.  Kindness negates fleshly traits such as selfishness, unruliness, rudeness, meanness, greediness, indifference, and self-centered thoughtlessness that if left unchecked, grow into the greater evils of cruelty, abusiveness, hostility and violence.  Kindness is a virtue that is always at our disposal.  There is not a lot of demonic activity against kindness.  Demons are not omniscient.  They do not have the discretion to differentiate the virtue of kindness from social pleasantries and niceties expressed in the flesh.  We can increase our productivity by taking any given situation and making it better with the application of kindness, and when we do, we are blest with a greater sense of accomplishment and of goodness.

 

Kindness is an action or gesture towards another that demonstrates the goodness of God.  It isn’t just being nice to someone, it is the heartfelt, sympathetic concern for another’s happiness and well-being, and the willingness to take an action for another’s benefit at one’s own expense; it is a willing sacrifice without thought of being paid back or rewarded in any way.  An act of kindness has the goodness of God and the benefit of the recipient as its only motive.  If this purity is corrupted in any way by contriving outcomes, posturing, guilt remediation, or scheming towards any particular end, the act ceases to be one of kindness and denigrates into self-serving manipulation.  Though we can’t control how our actions are perceived by others, if we practice kindness and make it our habit, our kind deeds will be spiritually uplifting for all involved; we will not make people feel like we’re trying to get something from them or otherwise make them suspicious of our motives.  To be kind, we will need to learn to be content with the joy of sharing the goodness of the Holy Spirit with others and with the sense of pleasing God.  We needn’t ignore that God rewards the faithfulness of His servants; however, we need to be careful not to let seeking rewards become our motivation lest we put the cart before the mule and stunt our spiritual growth with self-serving interests.

 

To learn to be kind we must be led by the goodness of God primarily.  To assist our progress, it helps to remember His goodness towards us when fatigue, sluggishness or insensitivity impedes our taking action.  If it isn’t already our habit, we will need to practice empathy; the analogy of “walking a mile in another’s shoes” is aptly applicable when learning kindness.  Then as we learn to see the world through another’s eyes, we will be better able to perceive what exactly their soul needs to replenish their spirit.  With this knowledge, we obtain the power to affect the mental, emotional and spiritual condition of the people around us in a good way.  We then have a choice to either brighten the world with an expression of His perfect goodness, or spread the blight of godlessness with sins of omission.  Without kindness, we allow indifference, selfishness, bitterness, or malice to overcome our innate spiritual goodness, grieving the Holy Spirit.   When we shortchange others the kindness we owe them as an affirmation of their dignity, we do so in defiance of our Lord and invite them to do the same to us.  We then begin compounding a downward spiral into ungodliness, creating stumbling blocks for the lost and dispirited, incurring His wrath.  The opposite is likewise true; one act of kindness can begin a chain reaction of kind deeds, supplanting their ungodly opposites all along our way and creating the potential to turn evil hearts back to God eternally.

 

Our ability to express kindness can also be used as a gauge to measure the quality of our spiritual condition as well as our ability to surrender to His divine will at any given moment.  When we are unwilling to be kind, we should search our hearts, discover the source of our rebellion, and do what is necessary to exterminate the demon.  An intentional lack of kindness is a form of disobedience.  Turning a deaf ear to His teachings on compassion embraces harshness and the demons of cruelty.  It likewise dishonors God with irreverence toward His Word and disgraces His creation when we fail to affirm the dignity of others by partaking of kindness.  Practicing kindness keeps us in a position to receive His blessings, while a hardened heart is prepared lessons designed to illuminate its poor spiritual condition.  Kindness cures hardened hearts by spreading the warm goodness of God that melts away the sinful bindings that inhibit its expression, enabling the way for greater expressions of forgiveness, mercy, and selflessness.

 

Compassion

 

From the Book of Proverbs (11:22) we read,

“As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout

So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.”

 

Since discretion is an essential element of all virtue, it follows that without discretion, there is no virtue, and without virtue, there is no beauty.  Regardless of a soul’s external features, there is no true beauty without virtue.  All manner of pleasant and pleasing physical appearance are negated when a soul lacks virtue.  Likewise, a soul not blest with an appearance that appeals to the flesh can nonetheless become beautiful by practicing virtue, especially the virtue of compassion that is easily perceived as beauty by our spiritual senses.   However, over time, the joy of virtue can mold the human form such that one develops a smile that glows bright enough to light up a room, adds a sparkle to the eyes that stir weary souls to life, and exhibits gestures that invite warm human interactions and friendships.   The opposite is likewise true, a lack of virtue, a lifetime of coping with sin, can lead to seemingly permanent expressions of bitterness and disdain, a countenance that repels and causes immediate discomfort in others.

 

Perceiving the beauty of compassion is as basic as our primal instincts of safety verses fear; compassion conveys the feeling of being in a safe haven.  It communicates the sense of being cared for, that our needs are being taken care of while we are able to rest and recuperate in the warmth and comfort of soothing goodness.  Whereas kindness plants the seeds of goodness all along the way (Mt.13:1-23), compassion aims to redress suffering (Lk.10:30-37) or meet the needs of others (Mt.14:13-21).  Whereas kindness can be expressed in simple words or gestures in passing, compassion requires an investment of our time, effort and means in order to restore an injured soul, to set right an injustice, or otherwise provide for the needs of others.  Compassion is the spirit within us that moves us to action when we see pain and suffering.  It understands and responds to pleas for mercy that are often expressed merely through tears or expressions of anguish.  It has a genuine desire to alleviate the effects of sin and instill goodness; its motives are pure.  Compassion has sympathy for the downtrodden, the waylaid, the destitute, the dispirited, the diseased, the lost, the dispossessed, the defeated, the victimized and the compromised, and can empathize with the thoughts and emotions that are common to all life’s sufferings.  The compassionate soul lives to alleviate these things by learning to heal, to teach, to protect, to encourage, to console, to provide, to forgive, to care, or to shepherd, and is willing to make the necessary sacrifices for the sake of others.

 

Before we can even attempt to express compassion, we need to keep in mind the needs that are common to all human existence, learn to recognize how they’re not being met, and then be able to discern a course of action to address specific needs.  All human needs can be traced back to the generic needs of significance or security (ref. “The Search for Significance” by Robert S. McGee, © 1985, 1990 Rapha Publishing; Houston, Texas, USA), and this includes all their manifestations, whether they are physical, soulful, or spiritual.  We can learn to recognize them in others by first learning to recognize them in ourselves, by paying attention to our own wants and desires and how they vary in priority as our condition experiences the highs and lows common to life on Earth.  Once identified, we can then see how a particular need is either being satisfied or neglected, and on what level, body, soul or spirit.  Though God has already provided for all our spiritual needs, we often need help learning to recognize and receive His provision for us.  Physical needs, food, clothing and shelter, at first seem simple, obvious and all inclusive till we remember our body’s internals, the effects of accidents and illnesses, and the instinctual urges to bond and mate.  Soulfully, we can tend to another’s needs by quelling the primary threats of indifference, worthlessness, and rejection.

 

Compassion heals.  As God has provided the means for our salvation and as medical doctors learn to heal the body, compassion neutralizes the demons that haunt human souls.  This has become well evidenced and documented in observation of twelve step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous where all the participants are victimized by the same impediment to spiritual and personal growth.  Whether an addiction, a proclivity toward a particular vice, post-traumatic stress, or any other personality or anxiety disorders, the company of fellow sufferers who are able to show the greatest amount of compassion due to their shared experience, knowledge and understanding, best facilitates the miraculous healing powers of compassion.  Our physical eyes cannot see another’s demons; we cannot fully know the nature, size or strength of the demons that afflict another’s wellness unless we’ve done battle with it ourselves.  Non-combatants don’t know the amount of courage and perseverance required to overcome something they can easily dismiss.  Conversely, in a support group, fellow sufferers can help identify the common enemy, its traits, what it feeds on, what weakens it, and then share strategies on how best to overcome it.  Compassion requires unconditional acceptance of others and foregoes all appearances of judging or condemning another soul for their shortcomings.  Support groups also provide a safe place for a soul to make confessions without fear of retribution or recrimination.  This environment leads to further repentance of subsequent sins as participants learn to make a habit of self-scrutiny.  Confessions to non-combatants risk a lack of understanding and confidentiality, and can be potentially dangerous in that it introduces them to demons that they may not be prepared to fend off, creating the possibility of further contagion.  Twelve step groups also teach making amends and when possible, undoing the damage done with full restitution.  By practicing these principles, members learn to grow into the newness of a godly life that is productive and full of joy rather than continuing in the desperation and depravity of addictions and subsequent, ungodly, maladaptive behaviors.

 

The work of the Holy Spirit within us will stir compassionate thoughts; however, there are simple things we can learn to help facilitate obtaining this virtue and being more like Christ.  First, we need to practice being observant, attentive and well informed.  Not knowing what is going on in the lives of people around us can lead to unintentional insensitivity, and even callousness or crassness depending on another’s emotional vulnerability at any given moment.  Being well informed will not be confused with being a nosy, gossipy, busy-body if we ask questions out of concern and not curiosity, pray for blessings for the person being discussed, and then not repeat what we know unless asked by another compassionate soul who is likewise only interested in the well being of others.  When we keep abreast of other’s circumstances, we can do as Jesus did, and with a kind word or deed address the needs of others without requiring them to rehash a lot of information that may be difficult for them to share.  Should we have troubles of our own, selflessly caring for others not only helps relieve our own discomfort, it is a witness and testimony to the love of God in Christ Jesus who lives in us and provides for all our needs.  Then, as we witness God watering the fields of the evil and the good alike, we become able to express compassion toward those we like as well as those we don’t (Mt.5:44-48).

 

When expressing the goodness of God with compassion and kindness, or when performing a service for Him, a host of demons arrives with a proven set of strategies designed to knock the purveyors of goodness off their course.  As puerile as it seems, name-calling can be an effective weapon preventing good deeds and is often the demon’s first salvo aimed at the children of God.  Whether it is children calling each other “goody goods” or adults attaching labels such as “bleeding hearts” or “crusader”, we need to learn not to let these simple attacks deter us from the tasks God has given us to do.  Being called a “hypocrite”, “self-righteous” or “hateful” by an ungodly soul should not deter us in our obedience to God.  An easy way to deal with them is to simply acknowledge their perceptions and then take a stand as being on the side of good by explaining to them the potential evils of leaving the task undone.  Instead of being deterred by the simple assaults of our detractors, we should ask ourselves; “Is this task truly something God has given me to do?  Is the detractor pursuing evil or good?  Am I willing to endure persecution in my obedience to God?”  Our reply to these souls, who most likely don’t understand deeds motivated purely by goodness, can be our witness and testimony to the love of God, turning not only the situation away from evil and towards goodness, but also the hearts of the lost.

 

Demons will also attempt to magnify the challenges any given task presents in an attempt to overcome our goodness with annoying frustrations or a sense of futility.  At such times, remembrance of Christ and a variety of our lessons will defeat the demons and keep our focus on God in obedience.  Thankfulness, perseverance, purity, courage, patience, joy, self-control, or charity, or any combination of virtues applied to the situation with proper discernment, can be used to repel the attacks of these demons.  Another demonic foray that aims to rob us of the joy of pleasing God is to create false expectations that lead to disappointments when expectations are not achieved and the realization of failure leads to an array of feelings associated with disenchantment.  This can happen when we insist on our own sense of fairness, resent uncomplimentary but helpful feedback or critiques, or develop a martyrdom complex.  If we allow ourselves to think that everyone around us should be as concerned with the task God has given us to do, and that they should be willing to make the same sacrifices we do in order to complete our task, such thoughts will undoubtedly lead to resentments.  Instead of joy and peace in our service, we will be overcome by these common frustrations and be left with nothing but ill will to show for our efforts.  We can make ourselves out to be great martyrs worthy of adulation and hefty rewards if we allow the demon of pride to infect our humble obedience to the call of Christ.  If we are overly sensitive to criticism, unable to discern the constructive from the destructive or the caring from the malevolent, then our joy and thankfulness will indeed be replaced by resentments.  This also happens if we are unwilling to listen to any suggestion that we may have erred or that a better way is possible, feeling insulted rather than abiding in our dignity.  If we listen to these demons, we will be overcome by feelings of being under appreciated, become disgusted with another’s perceived lack of usefulness or paltry contributions, and then disparage and demean them in an attempt to lessen the damage to our fleshly self-image.  Among fellow Christians, this qualifies as judging another’s servant, and is exactly what St. Paul instructs us not to do in Romans 14.  Instead, we need to forgive the shortcomings of our brothers and sisters in Christ, be an example of Christ ourselves, and encourage and assist others in their spiritual growth.  We can maintain our joy while in service to our Lord by refusing to entertain thoughts critical of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and by truly being thankful that God has deemed us trustworthy and capable.  It also helps to take an inventory of all the things that make it possible for us to be in a position to serve God.  A list that includes our eternal salvation in Christ, knowing God, life itself, our mental and physical talents that enable us to perform a particular service, and all resources available for our use; these are all things to be thankful for and not taken for granted.  Being thankful for all things at all times gives us joy instead of the misery that accompanies indulging in ingratitude, being critical or condemning others.

 

Demons attempt to squelch all expressions of goodness; however, their means are likewise limited by the extent the children of darkness are willing to go in pursuit of evil.  We must never forget that there are souls on this Earth that enjoy evil and consciously reject God rather than part with their perverse pleasures.  The self-serving and hedonistic pursuits of the flesh seem benign when compared to the sadists, masochists, and the violently controlling and abusive types.  These miserable people take pleasure in another’s pain, suffering, oppression, and distress so much so that they seek out ways to inflict such things upon others.  Should we fail to comprehend the full extent to which evil will go, we risk being completely stupefied with fear, overcome by their grotesqueness, collapse in a state of shock or otherwise rendered inert, and then be left suffering from posttraumatic stress.  Not only will we be unprepared to seek the grace of God in the moment we encounter unrestrained evil firsthand, afterwards the common result is the inability or unwillingness to be an uncompromising servant of God.  As Christians, we are targets for the demons because they can recognize the goodness of the Holy Spirit within us, and true to their evil nature, they crave to foul, soil, humiliate, abuse, maim, destroy or desecrate all that is good.  Such is the pleasure of the depraved and sadistic souls who never clean their spiritual house. They come to prefer the company of demons and become like stringed puppets in carrying out demonic whims.  We need to be prepared and know that they exist.  When we encounter extreme evil, we must remember and have faith in God, for His grace is sufficient to overcome all evil.  Then we seek the courage to act righteously.  Whether that means being still or an extreme intervention, God supplies the necessary grace in the moment.  Our part is to trust Him, to act in accordance with His will with the assurance that we do the right thing.

 

The world is full of unenlightened souls who put little or no effort into personal or spiritual growth.  Such people are prone to being motivated by personal vendettas, by petty jealousies, by the bitterness of lifelong disappointments, by sharing their pain by inflicting it on others, by a lusty greed for whatever they can get their hands on, and again, by the desire to ruin whatever joy and goodness they see in another’s life.  They are opportunists who seek to take advantage of another’s vulnerabilities, plotting complex schemes with covert and dishonest tactics.  What such people fail to realize is, whether by intentional denial or inability to figure it out, that the misery of their life is their own choosing, that their bitter harvest is reaped from the evil they sow.  These forlorn souls take pleasure in being spiteful, controlling, manipulative, disruptive, perverse, abusive, violent, unruly, or crass.  However, as children of God, we are not to indulge in any of their behaviors in return.  As difficult as it may be to exercise self-control in the presence of such malfeasance, we have been taught to love our enemies and do good things for those who mistreat us (Lk.6:27).  Lost, darkened and demented souls are in need of our compassion since they know neither the joy of salvation nor the beauty of kindness and forgiveness.  Though their actions may stir anger within us, we will need to recall that all souls are precious in His sight, practice forgiveness, and with proper discretion, treat the ungodly with compassion so that they might come to repentance and a saving knowledge of our Lord Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

Scriptural References:

 

Forgiveness

Ps.32:1-6, asking forgiveness of God through confession and repentance, heals

Mt. 6:9-15, failure to forgive as God forgives is a sin of omission

Mt.18:21-35, God holds us accountable when we fail to forgive others as He forgives us

Mk.11:25, before asking God to pardon sins, we first pardon all whose sin infects us

Lk.17:1-4, anticipate troubles in relationships and always remain willing to forgive

2Cor.2:5-11, a lack of forgiveness gives opportunity for the schemes of demons

Eph.4:29-32, a lack of forgiveness compromises our virtue

Col.3:12-14, our forbearance of other’s shortcomings depends upon our ability to forgive

 

Kindness:   

Pr.11:7, a person who lacks kindness is treated with indifference

Pr.12:25, kindness gives us the power to encourage and gladden others

Pr.14:21, our ability to be kind reflects the quality of our spiritual condition

Pr.14:31, kindness honors God, oppressing the downtrodden is a disgrace that taunts Him

Pr.19:17, kindness towards the needy serves our Lord and He rewards these good deeds

Mic.6:8, with our knowledge of goodness our Lord expects us to be kind and just

Mt.18:5-7, lack of kindness can cause another to stumble and this angers God

Lk.6:32-38, the kindness we extend toward others is the measure of our blessings from God

Rom.2:1-13, failure to reflect the kindness of God invites the wrath of His judgment

Rom.11:22, kindness perpetuates blessings while hardened hearts learn of His severity

1Cor.13:4-7, kindness is recognizable in our expressions of love in the Holy Spirit

2Cor.6:1-10, service to God is marked by the ability to show kindness to persecutors

Gal.5:16-26, kindness is evidence of His lordship over us and the Holy Spirit within us

Eph.4:29-32, impurity, bitterness, anger, wrath and malice compromise kindness

Col.3:8-14, impartial kindness is a sign of our renewal in Christ and knowledge of Truth

2Tim.2:22-26, impartial kindness is a required virtue to be a servant God

Titus 2:3-5, reverence for the Word of God is made manifest through kindness

2Pet.1:5-9, failure to show kindness is symptomatic of ignorance or forgetfulness

 

Compassion:

Pr.11:22, exterior beauty is wasted when unaccompanied by inner beauty

Mt.9:18-38, the compassion of our Lord Jesus brings miracles of healing

Mt.14:13-21, the compassion of Jesus in tending to the physical needs of the people

Mt.15:32-38, the compassion of Jesus preemptively addresses the needs of others

Mt.20:29-34, the compassion of Jesus restores those who plead for mercy

Lk.10:30-37, Jesus instructs us to have compassion for strangers in need

Php.2:1-18, in Christ we find the humility that enlightens our world with compassion

Col.3:1-14, children of God have a heart of compassion for all

 

Commentaries:

 

Forgiveness:

On The Lord’s Prayer (Mt.6:12-13):

“Scripture reveals to us in these words that he who has not completely forgiven those who stumble, and has not brought his heart to God free from grievance and illuminated with the light of reconciliation with this neighbor, will fail to attain the grace of the blessings he has prayed for.  Indeed, he will justly be handed over to temptation and to evil, so that, having retracted his judgment of other people, he may learn to purify himself of his own sin.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 302

 

“Wisely bear in mind that, if God acquits, no one can condemn (cf. Rom.8:33-34).  If you have been called [to serve God], do not worry about your past life, even if to some extent it has been soiled:  for it has been purified once more by God and through your own self-correction.  But afterwards be diligent and watchful, so as not to eclipse the grace.  Then if someone stupidly casts aspersions on your [service] because of your past, he will hear a voice from Heaven saying, ‘What God has cleansed, do not call unclean’ (Acts 10:15).”

St. Theognostos (8th C.?); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 370-71 #51

 

“Indeed, nothing leads more swiftly to the forgiveness of sins than this virtue or commandment: ‘Forgive, and you will be forgiven’ (cf. Matt.6:14).

This then is what we realize when we imitate Christ, growing gentle through the grace of the commandment.  But we are distressed for our brother, because it was on account of our sins that this brother was tempted by the common enemy and so became a remedy for the healing of our weakness.  Every trial and temptation is permitted by God as a cure for some sick person’s soul.  Indeed, such trials not only confer on us forgiveness of our past and present sins, but also act as a check on sins not yet committed.  But this is not to the credit either of the devil, or of the person who tempts, or of the person tempted.  The devil, being maleficent, deserves our hatred, for he acts with no concern for our welfare.  The person who tempts us merits our compassion, not because he tempts us out of love but because he is deluded and oppressed.  The person tempted, finally, endures affliction because of his own faults, not on behalf of someone else.”

St. Peter of Damaskos (11th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 95

Kindness:

“True kindness allows to life a proper space and freedom of movement; it even gives and provides these, for only in this way can life grow and develop.”

“Kindness pardons, for it is magnanimous and releases the offender; it trusts and always allows life to begin anew.”

“Kindness can look beyond itself; it does not begrudge to others what it lacks.  In fact, it can even rejoice with others.”

“Kindness means that a person is well disposed toward life.  Whenever he encounters a living being, the kind man’s first reaction is not to mistrust and criticize but to respect, to value, and to promote development.”

“…in kindness there is strength – strength in proportion to its purity – and perfect kindness is inexhaustible.”

“Kindness requires patience.  Suffering returns again and again and demands understanding.”

“One other thing is required of kindness, some which we rarely speak: a sense of humor.  It helps us to endure things more easily.”

“A friendly laugh at the oddity of all human affairs – that is humor.  It helps us to be kind, for after a good laugh, it is easier to be serious again.”

“…we shall seek for kindness in the place from which all virtue comes; we shall seek for it in God.”

“If we could see God’s goodness, this abyss of kindness, we would be joyful all our life long.”

Romano Guardini (1885-1968); “Learning the Virtues” pg. 110-112;

Sophia Inst. Press © 1998

 

Compassion:

“Compassion implies the most intimate sympathy with people who are suffering, despised, and marginalized.  Harsh judgments of others by any ‘paragon of virtue’ who invokes God, even the God our Lord Jesus Christ, reveal total shamelessness.”

Bernard Häring, “The Virtues of an Authentic Life”

 © 1997 by Liguori Publications, pg. 50

 

“Wherever compassion is missing, ‘works of righteousness’ are poisoned.”

“In the face of the suffering of heartlessly despised people, the compassionate person is shaken by sympathy and enlists to do something for them.  True sympathy urges us to action.  Active sympathy makes it clear that we are on the way to worshipping God as the supremely compassionate one and honoring Him in real life fashion.”

ibid. pg. 51

“The intellect is the organ of wisdom, the intelligence that of spiritual knowledge.  The natural sense of assurance common to both intellect and intelligence is the organ of the faith established in each of them, while natural compassion is the organ of the gift of healing.  For corresponding to every divine gift, there is in us an appropriate and natural organ capable of receiving it – a kind of capacity, or intrinsic state or disposition.  Thus he who purges his intellect of all sensible [physical] images receives wisdom.  He who makes his intelligence the master of his innate passions – that is to say, of his [passionate desires of the will] – receives spiritual knowledge.  He whose intellect and intelligence possess an unshakeable assurance concerning divine realities receives that faith with which all things are possible.  He who has acquired natural compassion receives, after the utter annihilation of [self-centeredness and self-adoration], the gifts of healing.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 217 # 33

Chapter 17 – The Essentials of Virtue – Humility, Selflessness, and Goodness

 

Humility:  submission to the value system of God in all things; characterized by:

  • acknowledgment that the value of a human soul is solely determined by God, although He blesses His children with different talents, abilities and qualities, all souls are precious to Him
  • willingness to put another’s needs and concerns before one’s own
  • performing all good deeds solely for the love of God without thought of any immediate recognition, reward or praise from others; being satisfied and comforted solely by knowing that one has pleased God;  selfless, sacrificial service to God and man;  having a servant’s heart
  • giving credit where credit is due, being thankful for all one’s blessings (talents, strengths, possessions, abilities, etc.); ability to praise another’s talents, blessings, and achievements without jealousy or envy; ability to encourage and assist another’s spiritual growth without thought of self
  • willingness to perform any task in obedience to God, from menial to strenuous, either low or high profile, either controversial or mundane, and doing so without thought of self
  • uncompromised exaltation and praise for God who is Lord of All, right reverence for God, meekness especially in the presence of God as well as in our relations with others
  • purity, gentleness, simplicity, peacefulness, dignity, prayerfulness, and reverence in one’s demeanor and mannerisms;  courteous and polite, acknowledging and affirming another’s worth to God in all interactions, acknowledging the dignity of all souls
  • ability to accept one’s saintliness and sinfulness simultaneously without either denial or pride
  • fear of God, discernment in Truth without compromise
  • absence of pride, arrogance, self-promotion, attention seeking, conceit, self-centeredness, and without attitudes of superiority in regards to one’s life, abilities, or ideas
  • absence of violence, contempt, ill will, vengeance, or condemnation in dealings with others
  • ability to accept criticism without reprisal, or injustice without retribution;  hearing criticism  with acceptance, tolerance, patient endurance, and temperance, ever deferring to God as judge
  • evidence of the grace of God at work on one’s soul, that spiritual battles are being won

 

 Selflessness:  without concern for one’s self, unselfish; ability to put another’s well-being ahead of one’s own concerns; self-sacrificing

 

Goodness:  approved by God and characterized by godliness; the righteousness of God within us expressed outwardly; thoughts and behaviors that are pleasing and acceptable to God; beneficial and having worth in the divine economy; expressions of purity; all deeds that result from being filled with the Holy Spirit and submissive obedience to His divine will; divine beauty; manifestations of His grace

 

In this chapter, we look at the basic and indispensable elements of being virtuous.  This is not to suggest that any of the virtues already discussed are dispensable, for without a firm foundation in place, we would not even be able to approach the loftier heights of godliness.  The virtues of humility, selflessness and goodness are essential in the sense that when they are compromised, their opposing vice wrecks any semblance of virtue already established.  There is no place in the virtuous soul for the conceit of pride, the filth of ungodliness, or the wantonness of the selfish.  Without humility, we lose God as our motivation.  Without selflessness, we serve ourselves instead of serving God and others.  Without goodness, we lose the presence of God altogether.

 

Humility

 

To be humble is to understand and accept our place in the divine economy of God.  Each of us is unique, but we are all just one among a countless number.  Each of us has unique talents, gifts and abilities, but none of these is to be used by us to determine our worth; determining the worth of souls is the sole province of God and we are all precious to Him.  He created us all and we are all likewise loved by Him.  Each of us has a role to fill with tasks ordained by God, but the work of our Lord will go on when it’s our time to go and be with Him; none of us need see ourselves as indispensable.

 

The beauty and goodness of humility can be seen more clearly by looking at the traits that compromise it, and then imagining a soul without such vices.  Humility properly reveres and respects God and His dominion, eliminating any pretense of our being in control, an arrogant sort of rebellion that laps the fringes of outright blasphemy.  The humble soul is not a braggart or boaster and does not allow sinful pride to control their speech with words of self-promotion, self-elation, and self-exaltation.  Humility allows a soul to defer their place to another rather than becoming incensed over perceived indignities; there is graciousness and gentleness instead of hoggish self-interest.  The humble soul doesn’t suffer the need for recognition and praise from others, and therefore isn’t prone to ostentatious, outlandish or grandiose behaviors.  Fanaticism, taking dares and thrill seeking are summarily eliminated.  Humility understands that all souls are precious to God and that human worth is not determined by the things of the flesh (Php.3:1-11); all notions and emanations of superiority as well as haughty attitudes and mannerisms, disappear.  Humble souls are thankful for their blessings, accepting of their station in life and harbor no need to complain or be bitter over perceived injustices or inequities.

 

Humility itself has an elusive character, for as soon as we claim to have it or become satisfied with our progress, it is gone.  To develop our humility, let’s first review the list in chapter 10; the implications of the spiritual growth suggestions should take on a weightier tone since we’ve progressed in our appreciation of virtue.  Likewise, more intense introspection needs to be done to secure the true motivations of our hearts and align our desires with the ways of God.  With greater self-scrutiny comes the need for a greater willingness to claim our shortcomings, our misguided motivations, and our resulting ungodly behaviors.  In addition, a greater courage is needed to forsake our newly uncovered habits of the flesh and adopt the ways of our Lord.  Often the crux dividing humility from its many opposing vices is determined by our value system.  We need to ask ourselves, are we willing to surrender our rights, accept less than what we think we are due, or suffer indignities for the sake of obedience to God and the preservation of our virtue?  When we are challenged or threatened, remembrance of Christ as our most holy example and then entrusting all our concerns to Him is how we learn to make God our first priority.  When we consider ourselves and our concerns as the most important determinants in our decision making, when we value our comforts and ourselves too much to endure anything for any reason other than what serves and pleases us, when our wants and desires outweigh the Truth of God and all eternal concerns, we can be assured that our virtue is being compromised.

 

To learn to put God first and value the eternal more than the temporal, we need to be secure in our identity as children of God and likewise derive all sense of self-worth from God.  Only when we truly know who we are in Christ can we persevere through the unfriendly trials an ungodly world inflicts upon Christians.  Without an identity firmly founded in Christ, our motivations are often based on making a statement about ourselves in acts of self-preservation or promotion.  Furthermore, when our motivation is to establish an identity or protect a self-image, we’re probably not seeing ourselves as mere children of God.  On the contrary, we are attempting to base our identity on the fantasies and delusions of the flesh.  This compromises our virtue and is a poor witness of gospel Truth; in order for others to see Christ in us we have to know with certainty that we are in Him.  Also, if we allow our sense of self-worth to be determined by people and things instead of God, we subscribe to a sense of self-worth subject to the fickle and capricious ways of the secular world that ultimately destroys the peace of our Lord within us.  When a child of God replaces godly dignity with temporal things such as careers, possessions, mental or physical capabilities, heritage, conquests, and the like, the resulting sinful pride becomes an affront to God.  These misconceptions beg to be destroyed so that matters of more importance may be allowed to progress, that being our relations with God and our acquisition of virtue.  The greater our reliance upon the flesh in determining our identity and self-worth, the greater is our potential for personal devastation when such things are compromised or lost altogether.  It is the nature of the flesh to expire; nothing of the flesh is taken up to be with God.  As hard as it might be to let go of the flesh and humbly adopt an identity solely based on our birth as children of God, making this decision has glorious results and is a full-sized step towards a joyful and abundant life in Christ.  Also, aside from being rewarded for our obedience when we do so, we also spare ourselves immeasurable grief by not having to learn these lessons the hard way through trials and providential disciplinary actions.  Lastly, when God holds our identity and dignity in His hands, neither our circumstances nor other people can take them from us, and we are far less likely to allow our walk with our Lord to be compromised by the insults and indignities an ungodly world aims at Christians.  To be an effective witness for Christ, we cannot spend our energies defending ourselves from attacks on our flesh.

 

Humility requires self-scrutiny that in turn requires the virtue of discernment [discrimination] if the results are to be at all meaningful and helpful.  Without, the habits of the flesh are not likely to be discovered.  It is embarrassingly easy to fool ourselves and even more shameful when we attempt to pass our delusions onto others.  For instance, seeking to be esteemed by our fellows by using ourselves as the good example when in communal prayer only serves to negate our virtue in the moment and our rewards in eternity (Mt.6:1-4).  This isn’t meant to discourage a good report that serves as both a good example and encouragement to others.  We just need to remember to keep our focus on God when doing so by merely mentioning our deeds in obedience while expounding on the blessed results and expressing thankfulness for being a trusted servant.  We should emphasize the awesome works of the Holy Spirit that have been our privilege to behold and be wholly content knowing we have pleased our Lord without seeking undo attention for ourselves.  Another aspect of self-examination is to determine whether we are fully surrendered to Him in the moment.  A quick spot check has been known to help with this determination.  All we need do is pause a moment and ask ourselves this question, “If the Lord had something else for me to be doing at this time, would I be able to stop what I’m doing and do the task my Lord has called me to do?”  When living in the flesh, the call of our Lord always seems to come at an inopportune time, or be deemed impractical or unprofitable.  Another way to determine if we are operating in the flesh or the spirit is to look at the results.  If our motivations result in behaviors consistent with manifestations of the flesh, we have lapsed from the spirit and into the flesh.  Conversely, if we see fruits that we can attribute to the Holy Spirit, we very likely are abiding in Him (cf. Gal.5:16-23).  Note, results are not meant to indicate whether we were successful in the completion of any particular task given us.  We have either obeyed or disobeyed Him.  Determining whether outcomes are right or wrong is the sole province of God.  Our abilities are too limited to make such judgments definitively.  Our part is to trust in Him and obey the direction of our Lord.  The results we speak of consist solely of our motivations and how we conduct ourselves in the moment.  Should it appear the text has digressed, let us just be reminded that humility requires intense introspection.  Such introspection requires critical discretion based on Truth and this can only be done in total submission to His authority.  Subordinating our human will to His divine will is how we rightly respond to the convictions and callings the Holy Spirit impresses upon our conscience.

 

Selflessness

 

In discussing humility, we’ve already touched on many of the basic elements of selflessness by outlining what we need to do to put others before ourselves.   We discuss selflessness by itself in order to emphasize its criticality in determining virtue from non-virtue; when acting on unselfish motivations, we lean toward virtue.  Jesus clearly states this when we says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24).  To deny ourselves is to forego what is rightfully ours, to abstain for the sake of Christ, or to make sacrifices for the sake of others.  We do this by humbly acknowledging the greater good of God over our selfish, self-serving motivations.  Though we must be well ourselves before we can be of service to God, it’s not often that circumstances are so dire that we risk fatal consequences when putting the needs of others before our own.  Note; the wellness spoken of here is all inclusive of our physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual health.  We should also be the able to distinguish service to God from imposing requests from others.

 

Selflessness negates greed and affirms the economy of God.  The economy of God places God, His will for us, and virtue, ahead of all other considerations. Quite simply, we cannot put God first if our first consideration is always for ourselves.  We are to entrust our care and our concerns to God, then trust and obey Him.  To put God first, we must know our motivations, and to know our motivations again requires introspection.  Unexamined and blind obedience is for the childlike mind, and though this is the best approach early in our Christians lives (Mt.18:2-4, Mk.10:15), we are not to abandon our mental faculties in our pursuit of a greater faith.  Rather, we should learn and grow in our understanding of the economy of God instead of roiling in the folly of secular reasoning (Mt.16:26, 1Cor.3:1-3).  However, conversion to Christianity requires an act of pure faith because the doubting, secular mind refuses to accept what can’t be demonstrated or logically and scientifically proved; human intelligence is not the source of faith, God is.  Once the seed of faith has been planted, we are to cultivate its growth (Mt.13:1-23, 31-32), and nurture a more mature faith (1Cor.13:9-11).  A critical aspect of spiritual growth integral to selflessness is learning to be content with what we have (Mt.20:1-16, Lk.3:14).  By tracing back the source of any discontentedness we may harbor, introspection will unearth the fault within us that robs us of our joy in Christ.  Whether the source is envy or greed, an infringement upon our rights or possessions, perceived injustice or inequality, being disappointed or betrayed by others, nothing should be cause to compromise our virtue.  We are to love our enemies and be content in all things, knowing the peace of our Lord.  By shining the light of Christ on the source of our shortcomings, we can then replace them with virtues, and align our thoughts and deeds with the will of God.  In so doing, we thwart the demons, causing them to flee by using their malevolence as motivation for goodness, bringing us closer to God and knowing a greater faith.

 

Goodness

 

Goodness means God is present for only God is good (Lk.18:19).  It is by learning about God and from knowing Him that we are able to discern goodness from evil.  The collective human experience is so inundated with erroneous concepts of good and bad, of right and wrong, we need to be extra cautious with this virtue in order to appreciate its depth in Truth.  Overexposure, inane familiarity, and the preponderance of secular expressions, all serve to profane the use and meaning of what is good.  As we learn of goodness, our task will be to rid ourselves of its secular concepts and applications, then restore its eternal meaning and implications along with the reverence, wonder, magnitude and beauty of goodness.  Learning to equate what is good with God and godliness should likewise help us to free ourselves of sinful impurities; this manner of self-correction is also a way to practice the virtue of remembrance.

 

As Christians, as surely as the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we harbor the goodness of God wherever we go (1Cor.6:19).  Learning virtue is as much about allowing the fullness of His holiness into our lives, as it is learning to express His goodness outwardly.  Our goodness is the light Jesus tells us to shine for all to see so that we might glorify God (Mt.5:16).  By extolling the goodness of God through our undefiled speech and rightly motivated actions, we develop a greater intimacy with God and an appreciation for the beauty of His ways as we learn what is pleasing and acceptable to Him.  Our spiritual discernment likewise improves as we practice watchfulness, heeding the promptings of the Holy Spirit our conscience perceives, ever leading us toward goodness and away from evil.

 

The virtue of goodness brings many beautiful things into our lives.  When we show goodness to others and they respond to our good intentions, we may be privileged to see the seeds of godliness take root and have the opportunity to participate in another’s spiritual growth.  To see a vile sinner being cleansed of sin, to see their lives sanctified and restored by the Holy Spirit, is a truly miraculous and wondrous sight to behold.  Goodness radiates the power of His presence and the conviction of absolute Truth.  It frees the addict from their obsession whether it is alcoholism, gambling, homosexuality, promiscuity, power (dominance, controlling), pornography, gossip, drugs, violence, thievery, or idleness, or whatever compromises a soul’s freedom.  Goodness, when learned and appreciated early in life, can prevent the adoption of sinful habits altogether.  Doing so also gives the seeds of goodness a longer life to grow, producing fruits upon fruit and an abundant life of many harvests.  An affinity with nature and all creation develops as we grow in goodness since all creation is His and it bears the attributes of the Creator (Rom.1:18-20).  Our role as caretakers of the Earth, of the lands and seas and the creatures within, becomes a part of our thoughts as we pursue goodness (Gen.2:15).  Our relationships will likewise flourish when nurtured with goodness since aligning our motives and concerns with the ways of God is how He meant for our lives to be, sinless and in accord with His will for us.

 

Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and show them goodness (Lk.6:27-36).  We are likewise to pray for those who persecute us (Mt.5:44).  Should we have difficulty obeying these teachings that are so contrary to our fleshly human nature, it helps to remember that God desires none be lost but rather all come to repentance (2Pe.3:9).  We are not to return evil for evil or take an eye for an eye as we see fit (Mt.5:38-42).  We are to be motivated by the goodness of the Holy Spirit instead of pleasing ourselves.  We’re not to sate the ravenous desires of our flesh for vengeance, retribution or exacting our own sense of justice.  We are to allow the loving light of our Lord to shine on the darkness of sin with the hope of illuminating the pathway out of hell for a lost soul.  We tell others that with God all things are possible and that the abundant life in Christ is likewise available to them.  By showing the lost goodness, by showing them loving-kindness and forgiveness, by letting them meet God in our expression of His will, we may be blest with a glimpse of the joy of Heaven when a lost sinner repents (Lk.15:7).

 

Partaking of the work that pleases God is our privilege and an eternal treasure.  Reflecting the goodness of God has many rewards for us as well.  The flesh mainly considers physical features when determining beauty and thereby judges many a soul to be unattractive in some way, when in Truth, those who share in the goodness of God and let His light shine for all to see, are the ones who possess real beauty.  A physical appearance that appeals to the flesh is not truly beautiful without virtue (Pr.11:22).  Men of integrity who take to heart their responsibilities as husbands, fathers and as leaders, and women who cherish their roles as wives, mothers and being supportive, because of being true to the order God decreed, are never to be considered ugly, offensive, or otherwise deficient.  God created both masculinity and femininity and each reflects the beauty of the Creator.  So do we when we remain true to our created gender, surrendering our will and desires to God, allowing Him to shape our spiritual development from whatever characteristics we were given at our time of conception.  In the economy of God, again, contrary to the prevalent value system in the secular world, roles do not determine human worth.  Also, it is a false secular notion that says being true to one’s gender limits fulfillment in life, for we find abundance and fulfillment in Christ alone.

 

Like the magnificence of a colorful sunset, the beauty of goodness has such a warm countenance that it attracts many to pause a moment just to behold and absorb its serenity.  When we exude the goodness of God, we can expect pained and troubled souls to be drawn to us as they seek relief from their sufferings.  They will want for themselves what is ours in Christ.  As the crowds flocked to Jesus in search of a better life, when hurting souls sense the Holy Spirit in us, they likewise seek the same qualities of goodness.  However, like the brilliance of the sunrise that causes those who prefer their ungodliness to remain veiled in darkness, some will curse the light that exposes their unsavory and vile deeds.  We can be hated for our goodness when our light causes others to feel the guilt, shame, or foulness that accompanies a life of sin and separation from God.  Being good to souls consumed by semi- or sub-conscious self-loathing, to heap burning coals of goodness upon their sin-sickened heads (Rom.12:20), we may just provide the glimpse of Truth or taste of the Heaven that fractures a hardened heart into repentance.  And they, like us, can know Christ and then begin to build upon the talents given to them at birth.  Be they meager or mighty, by applying polish and tending with care, the gifts of the Holy Spirit will produce a life that is a worthy gift to lay before our King.  For faith moves the mountain of sin, dislodges the bad habits, allows the antisocial to become hospitable, changes meanness into loving-kindness, and the miser becomes charitable.  As children of God, we are the purveyors of the wealth of goodness of all creation and of the abundance of life in the Holy Spirit; we are to share the bounty (Lk.3:7-11).

 

Scriptural References:

 

Humility:

Ps.18:27, God upholds the humble and humbles the proud

Ps.25:9, our Lord teaches the teachable and reveals to the humble what is right

Pr.3:34, God contends with the mockers in kind while giving grace to the humble

Pr.11:2, humility leads to wisdom while pride brings dishonor and shame before God

Pr.15:33, God honors the humble

Pr.22:4, God rewards the humble with richness of life

Mic.6:8, to be with God we walk humbly, enjoying kindness and preserving justice

Mt.5:5, God rewards the humble (gentle) with a great inheritance

Mt.11:28-30, our Lord Christ Jesus draws us to Him with gentleness and humility

Lk.1:46-49, the example of His humble servant Mary

Eph.4:1-6, walk in a manner worthy of God, humbly, gently, and patiently seeking unity

Php.2:1-4, unity of spirit and purpose are made possible with humility and selflessness

Col.2:16-23, false humility, like legalism and false piety, have no place in Christ

Col.3:12-14, humility as a component of love which bonds the children of God in unity

Jas.1:21, to rightly hear and receive the Word of God requires humility

Jas.3:13-16, jealousy, selfishness and arrogance are contrary to wisdom from above

Jas.4:6-10, God opposes the proud but exalts and gives grace to the humble

1Pe.3:8-12, we are to bless lost souls with sympathy, kindness and humility

1Pe.5:5-7, be humble and without anxieties and trust our caring Lord to provide

 

Selflessness: 

Mt.16:24-27, disciples of Christ deny self and bear their burdens faithfully

Lk.12:32-34, do not hoard assets, instead be charitable and amass riches in Heaven

Lk.10:30-37, an example of a servant’s heart and tending to the needs of others

Jn.15:9-17, love one another as Christ loves us, bearing all costs in obedience to Him

 

Goodness: 

Gen.1, the beauty of creation that God declared to be good and entrusted to mankind

Ps.16.2, without our Lord there is no goodness in us

Ps.31:19, our Lord has abundant goodness to give to those who take refuge in Him

Ps.34, a psalm that contrasts those who seek goodness from those who indulge in evil

Ps.92:1-4, thanksgiving and praise as examples of goodness

Ps.111:10, obedience enlightens our understanding of goodness

Ps.112:4-5, goodness is bestowed upon the generous; the charitable are justified

Pr.2:1-9, an outline of the path towards goodness

Pr.3:27, instruction not to withhold goodness from deserving souls

Pr.13:2, godly speech fosters goodness in return

Mt.5:14-16, Jesus tells us to let our goodness that glorifies God shine for all to see

Mt.7:17-20, the children of God display goodness; an ungodly soul cannot

Mt.12:33-37, goodness comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit

Mt.13:24-30, 36-43, on Earth, the evil and the good coexist and grow together

Lk.2:10-14, proclaiming the coming of Christ is good news

Lk.6:27-35, Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and show them goodness

Lk.6:35-38, show goodness and mercy regardless of recipient’s worthiness

Jn.10:11-18, the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep

Rom.12:21, we are to overcome evil with goodness

Gal.5:22-23, goodness comes from the Holy Spirit in us

Php.2:12-13, it is for His goodness and pleasure that God teaches His children His ways

Col.1:9-14, good works teach us about God and expand the influence of His kingdom

1Tim.4:4-5, when rightly aligned with God in prayer, all things are good

1Tim.5:25, goodness shines brightly for all to see while evil can’t be hidden forever

1Tim.6:17-19, instruction to do good, to be generous, and to share

Titus 3:1-11, St. Paul contrasts goodness with ungodliness; do good deeds and be fruitful

 

Commentaries:

 

Humility:

“God has freed us from bitter slavery to tyrannical demons and has given us humility as a compassionate yoke of devoutness. It is humility which tames every demonic power, produces in those who accept it every kind of sanctity, and keeps that sanctity inviolate.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 117 #15

 

“Since salvation comes to you as a free gift, give thanks to God your saviour.  If you wish to present Him with gifts, gratefully offer from your widowed soul two tiny coins, humility and love, and God will accept these in the treasury of His salvation more gladly than the host of virtues deposited there by others (cf. Mk.12:41-43).”

St. Theognostos (8th C.?); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 369 #45

 

“The substance of wealth is gold; of virtue, humility.  Just as he who lacks gold is poor, even though this may not be outwardly apparent, so the spiritual aspirant who lacks humility is not virtuous.”

Ilias the Presbyter (12th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 38 #40

 

 

Selflessness:

“The presence of the passion of avarice reveals itself when a person enjoys receiving but resents having to give.  Such a person is not fit to fulfill the office of treasurer or bursar.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 95 #76

 

“Herein we find the mysterious dialectic of the person: the more a person seeks himself, the more he slips away from himself.  The more important he considers himself, the more insignificant he becomes.  The vain, calculating person who lives only for himself thinks that he is attaining a fuller, stronger selfhood.  In reality, he is becoming interiorly crippled because he never moves in that free space which only unselfishness creates.  As we depart from ourselves and give our attention to the other, to the work, or to the task, the true self awakens and grows.  A person is more truly himself the more freely he leaves himself for the other person with whom he is dealing or for the task that confronts him.”

Romano Guardini (1885-1968); “Learning the Virtues” pg. 156,

Sophia Inst. Press © 1998

 

“Whenever a person, in opposition to God, clings to his soul, he loses it, but when he gives it to God, he finds it.  Man gives his soul to God in every act of obedience to God’s holy will and, at the same moment, God gives it back to him, and the soul has become more truly itself than it was before”

ibid. pg. 157

 

Goodness:

“The mystics speak of the ‘birth of God in man’.  This is a mysterious phrase about whose ultimate meaning we shall not speak here, but one thing we can understand immediately: God wishes to enter into man, to find a place in him and assume a human form, here in this person who is generically one among countless others, but personally is unique; that is, he is himself.

There is a resemblance to God in all things.  Everything expresses Him, each according to its own kind, and this expression of God constitutes its basic created nature.  But God wishes to express Himself in a man in a special way, in each person according to his particular character.  This is the inmost core of what we call ‘personality’, a reflection – if we may be permitted this comparison – of the Incarnation of the eternal Son.  The real, essential Incarnation took place in Christ, but by His grace, which confers His image, God wishes to enter into every person and express Himself in him, and in everyone in a special and unique manner.  Every believer should be an expression of God.  The foundation is laid in Baptism, in the ‘new birth of water and the Holy Spirit”, as we learn from the nocturnal conversation of the Lord with Nicodemus [Jn.3:1-20].  And every act of the believer in doing the will of God constitutes a step in that direction.”

Romano Guardini (1885-1968); “Learning the Virtues” pg. 156-157;

Sophia Inst. Press © 1998

“The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created by God, and pursues such knowledge ardently and ceaselessly.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 53  #4

 

“Since the soul is more noble than the body and God incomparably more noble than the world created by Him, he who values the body more than the soul and the world created by God more than the Creator Himself is simply a worshipper of idols.”

ibid. #7

“Demonic thought consists in a conceptual image compounded with passion.  One thinks, for example, of a human being, but this thought is accompanied by mindless affection, that is to say, but the desire for a relationship not blessed by God but involving unchastity; or else it is accompanied by unreasoning hatred, that is to say, by rancour or spite.  Again, one thinks of gold avariciously or with the intention of stealing or seizing it; or else one is roused to hatred and blasphemy against God’s works, thus causing one’s own perdition.  For if we do not love things as they should be loved, but love them more than we love God, then we are no different from idolators, as St. Maximos says [cf. Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 53].  But if, on the other hand, we hate and despise things, failing to perceive that they were created ‘wholly good and beautiful’ (Gen.1:31), we provoke the anger of God.

Angelic thought, finally, consists in the dispassionate contemplation of things, which is spiritual knowledge proper.  It is the mid-point between two precipices, protecting the intellect and enabling it to distinguish between its true goal and the six diabolic pitfalls that threaten it.  These pitfalls lie above and below, to the right and left, and on the near side and on the far side of the intellect’s true goal.  Thus spiritual knowledge proper stands as though at the centre, surrounded by these pitfalls.  It is the knowledge taught by those earthly angels who have made themselves dead to the world, so that their intellect has grown dispassionate and hence sees things as it should.  In this way, the intellect does not go above its true goal out of pride or self-esteem [narcissism], thinking it understands things merely through its own power of thought; nor does it fall below its true goal, prevented by ignorance from attaining perfection.  It does not veer to the right through rejecting and hating created things, or to the left through mindless affection for them and attachment to them.  It does not remain on the near side of its true goal because of its utter ignorance and sloth, nor trespass on its far side, lured by the spirit of meddlesomeness and senseless curiosity that arises from contempt or maliciousness.  Rather, it accepts spiritual knowledge with patience, humility and the hope that is born of a deep faith.  In this way, through its partial knowledge of things the intellect is led upwards towards divine love.  But, even though it possesses some knowledge, it is aware that it is still ignorant; and this awareness keeps it in a state of humility.  Thus through persistent hope and faith it reaches its goal, neither hating anything completely as evil, or loving anything beyond measure.”

St. Peter of Damaskos (11th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 134-135

 

Chapter 16 – The Pleasure of Virtue – Joy, Thankfulness, and Praise

Joy:  the elation that overcomes the soul when the spirit acknowledges being in the presence of God; being full of praise for God; being filled with the Holy Spirit; the pleasurable state of being resulting from right relations with God and being forgiven by God

Thankfulness:  expressing appreciation to God for all aspects of one’s life; neither taking one’s blessings nor disciplinary learning circumstances for granted or with indifference; absence of disdain for any aspect of life; continual remembrance and mindfulness of indebtedness to God for His mercy, His provision and His gifts

Praise:  worship; acknowledging God as God, as Lord of all, with adoration, reverence, awe, thanksgiving, joy, remembrance, longing, zeal, glory, exaltation, psalmody, giving, sharing, and submission; all things done while abiding in a state of grace; that which is done specifically in service to our Lord such as evangelization, counsel, participation, teaching, nurturing, caring, helps, and the like

The Christian life is not meant to be devoid of pleasure, it is meant to be lived knowing the pleasures of joy.  Our Lord has given us ample cause for having a heart full of joy through all our days.  There is even joy in sorrow when we learn to be more thankful for His blessings rather than being consumed by the grief of impoverishment when suffering a loss.  There is a season for everything during our life under the sun (Eccl.3:1-8).  In remembrance of His merciful grace, we can have joy simply in life itself, even when pain is pervasive, because we can be thankful for the full spectrum of emotions and sensations God has wondrously created for us to experience.  We can learn to be wholly thankful for our blessings rather than succumbing to bitterness and rage when they pass.  It is because of the awesome beauty and immense pleasure of His blessings that make their loss so painful in the first place.  Nothing that is physical lasts forever, therefore we should learn to appreciate the eternal, the spiritual, and remember God as the source and creator of all our blessings.  Our pleasure in His blessings correlates to the pleasure we will have when we enter fully into His presence.  Likewise, in the passing of His blessings, the end of one season and the beginning of the next, we experience death, the absence of His presence.  From death, we learn an even greater appreciation for His blessings and come to comprehend the implications of an eternally lost soul more fully.  Our life on Earth is often allegory to the eternal, and yet we now see only in a mirror dimly (1Cor.13:12).  To comprehend the immensity of joy in Heaven, and conversely, the agony of Hell, we can only speculate using our imagination.  However, when we are immersed in the virtues of joy, thankfulness and praise, we bring Heaven to Earth and get a taste for the blessedness of the divine pleasures to come.

Joy

 

            If not for sin, life on Earth would be one of pure pleasure in the presence of God.  If we were capable of only partaking of what is good, we would know only the joy of His presence.  However, the flesh is ever stained with sin and therefore we must pursue God primarily and let pleasure be the result not the objective.  As we progress in virtue, we learn of goodness, we learn to forsake evil for good, and we learn the pleasures of goodness that is the abundant and joyful life in Christ (Jn.10:10, 15:10-11).  The emphasis in life on obtaining pleasure while avoiding pain often equates to one of good versus evil.  Only God is good, and there is pleasure in the goodness that pleases Him.  Conversely, we invite pain when we choose the evil that is contrary to God.  However, as long as we have the capacity to derive superficial and perverse pleasures from evil, we cannot simply equate pleasure with goodness.  Likewise, the dearth of sin that surrounds us prevents associating a specific pain with a particular transgression one to one for all occasions with absolute certainty.  We should first recognize goodness before allowing ourselves to take pleasure, and we are supposed to take pleasure in the wealth of goodness God has provided us in all His creation.  It is how life was meant to be in the Garden of Eden (Gen.1:26-31).  We express gratitude for His blessings when we partake of the gifts God provides for our pleasure.  Enjoying the goodness of life and the fruits from His garden is likewise a manner of praising Him as we acknowledge the Giver and are thankful.

It is certainly by design that joy, thankfulness and praise are so intricately intertwined, for the cord they form is the pleasure used to bind us to God and to His way for us.  If beholding God were painful instead of a pleasure, we’d all be running for Hell in a self-deprecating, self-destructing mode.  Sadly, this is exactly what happens to many abused or gospel-ignorant souls whose vision of God has been warped by misattributing to God the evil cruelty mankind collectively commits or otherwise permits without redress.  In the scripture passages below, it is important to note how frequently these virtues are paired together.  Here we see that there can be little joy in our lives if we fail to praise God with thanksgiving.  The greatest joy we can ever know is being fully in the presence of God.  God created us to know Him; Adam and Eve were fully in His presence before the fall from grace.  God has since provided the means to restore human souls to a similar pre-fallen state of grace, restoring mankind’s ability to be in His presence.  His provision, our salvation, is Christ Jesus; we come to Him initially offering confession and repentance, seeking forgiveness for our sin.  By His redemptive and atoning work on the cross, we have forgiveness of our sins, our rightness before God restored.  Being free of our sin is certainly a cause for joy in itself, but the result of our cleansing process also allows us to approach God and taste the pleasure of being in His presence.  The joy of our restoration is reason to praise God and be thankful, and doing so in turn brings joy.  However, we are also to have empathy for the sorrows of our Lord and be acquainted with His grief caused by the sins of mankind.  We are not to turn a blind eye towards the ugliness of sin, nor wag a finger or tongue in an expression of disgust towards those whose lives are consumed by sin.  To have the mind of Christ, we must also experience the pain of knowing a precious human soul is lost and condemned (Jn.3:17-19).  Then regardless of circumstances, be willing to testify to the truth of the gospel in word and deed, and pray that our humble efforts might help return the lost sheep to the Shepherd, turning our sorrows again into joy.

Our joy in our Lord is one of thankfulness for the many blessings He bestows.  Our joy is the warmth and comfort that fills our souls when we praise the Almighty in all His magnificent glory.  Our joy is the sense of elation and spiritual uplifting that comes from right relations with God and having unhindered access to our heavenly Father.  Our joy is the sense of peace we have from knowing we are in His hands; that He loves us, provides for us, and tends to our well-being in all our circumstances.  Our joy is the stability we know by basing the foundation of our lives on His everlasting Word, of having our identity resolutely ensconced as children of God and knowing our names are eternally written in His book of life (Rev.20:15).  Our joy is the sense of purpose that comes with abiding in Truth and knowing that our lives are precious to God.  Our joy is the wonder of His revelation and the ability to behold the beauty of all His creation.  Our joy is the life of Christ in us, and our life in Him, for He saves us from death and the depravity of sin.

Our joy is also the absence of the many agonizing situations sin produces that righteous living totally negates.  The unpleasant consequences of living after the flesh are replaced by the pleasures that come with bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal.5:16-26).  The reverse of the joys listed in the previous paragraph is what robs a life of joy.  Neither the ingrate nor the fearful, neither the unrighteous nor the hostile, neither the unstable nor the fatalist, neither the blasphemer nor the spiritually blind, will ever know the pleasure of life that is the joy of living in the presence of our Lord.  Likewise, we as children of God need not know the feelings the ungodly are intimately acquainted with due to their state of sin and resulting sinful lifestyles.  Futility and frustrations, purposelessness and insignificance, wantonness and insecurity, are all states of being contrary to life as children of God. Though it isn’t necessarily unusual for us to experience these feelings temporarily, we have recourse in Christ and the provision of God to be free of them and have joy instead.  We should likewise be thankful for the many unpleasant circumstances and corresponding ugliness we are spared from experiencing because we walk with Him instead of with evil.  The painful consequences of sin, the guilt and recriminations, the wrecked relationships and ruined gifts, the wasted talents, the pain inflicted and returned, are all things that squelch the joy out of life and need not permeate the lives of His children.

Thankfulness

To live a life of joy, all we need do is learn to be thankful and to praise God regularly.  Sounds simple enough, but the pervasiveness of the flesh presents us with a myriad of potential pitfalls capable of diminishing our willingness to do so.  Taking an exhaustive inventory of our blessings can help keep us from becoming ungrateful or taking them for granted.  This list can also be used as a prayerful reminder when difficult circumstances narrow our vision.  The intent here is not to trivialize anyone’s suffering or pain, nor short-thrift anyone’s legitimate grieving processes following losses, but rather, through it all, be willing to remember the bottom line; we are spiritual beings, all things of this world will pass, and we will one day be with God in Heaven wholly and eternally.  In time, the magnitude of His saving grace will help us rise above the circumstances that impugn our ability to be grateful, and we can then return to praising God with thanksgiving, restoring our joy in our Lord.

Praise

Praise has many forms.  In the broadest sense, all activity done while our will is fully surrendered to His divine will can be considered praise.  In a narrower sense, praise can be equated with worship, the more formal, traditional, and intentional acts instituted by God for us to express reverence and adoration for Him.  Praise is born of acknowledgment of Truth, that our Creator is Lord of all.  Praise is likewise acknowledging the ultimate and infinite attributes of God; His eternal and inexhaustible power and love.  Praise is to be pure, so we should free ourselves of sinful impurities before seeking to praise God (Mt.5:23-24).  Praise is expressed with thanksgiving, so we need to learn to be thankful for all things in order to praise God rightly.  We praise God by building churches, preaching His gospel, being godly parents, and serving others in the name of our Lord.  We praise God by loyally upholding His Word, keeping His commandments, and being obedient to His call.  Praise is raising our arms high in the air as we exalt His name and surrender our souls.  As His servants, we praise Him with the attitude of our body by bowing, kneeling or prostrating appropriately before the Lord God Almighty. Praise expresses the joy we have from knowing God, and brings us more fully into His presence that we might know a greater joy.  Praise is the speaking, singing, cheering, laughing, listening, giving, dancing and the praying that we do to honor and celebrate our Lord.  Praise is the ongoing melody of life in the Holy Spirit.

Scriptural References:

 

Joy:

Ps.16:11, acknowledging the joy of being in the presence of God

Ps.21:1-6, an expression of joy and thankfulness for the blessings of God

Ps.51, joyful praise following repentance and receiving the forgiveness of God

Ps.94:19, recognizing and receiving the providential care of God brings joy amidst angst

Ps.100, joyful thanksgiving and praise for all the goodness our Lord bestows

Pr.10:28, there is joyful hope for the righteous ones of God

Pr.12:20, those who know and teach the peace of our Lord have joy as their reward

Mt.13:44, the joy of heaven is worth giving up all our worldly wealth to attain

Lk.1:11-17, preaching the gospel of Christ in the Holy Spirit brings joy

Lk.2:8-12, the presence of our Lord is cause for joy

Jn.15:9-12, the joy of our Lord comes from obediently abiding in His love

Jn.17:13, Jesus reveals that His message brings joy to the world

Ac.13:46-52, preaching the gospel brings joy to those who speak and to those who hear

Rom.1:18-32, contrasting the results of ungodliness to the joy of being with our Lord

Rom.14:16-18, those who partake of the goodness of God have joy in the Holy Spirit

Rom.15:13, our faithful hope in God brings joy in the Holy Spirit

Gal.5:19-23, contrasting life in the flesh against the joys of being filled with the Holy Spirit

Heb.12:1-3, Christ endured the cross for the joy to come

Jas.1:2-4, the testing of our faith is cause for joy in that it helps us to grow

3Jn.1:4, the joy of St. John is to see the children of God walking according to Truth

Rev.19:4-9, a vision of our eternal joy rejoicing in the activity of Heaven

Thanksgiving:

Ps.9:1-2, giving thanks to God

Ps.69:30, praising God with thanksgiving

Ps.98, thankful praise for everything our Lord does for His children

Ps.105:1-7, thanksgiving in remembrance of what our Lord has done for His people

Ps.107:15-22, giving thanks for the mighty and wondrous deeds He does for His children

Ps.136:1-9, giving thanks to God for the everlasting love and mercy He bestows upon us

Mt.15:32-38, Jesus teaches us to thank God for all our blessing that we may remain blest

Mt.18:9-14, a parable to teach proper thanksgiving for His mercy and our forgiveness

Mt.26:26-28, Jesus teaches thankfulness for His body and His blood

Rom.1:8, St. Paul’s example to be thankful for the furtherance of the gospel

Eph.5:1-12, be thankful for His grace instead of indulging in frivolity or filth

Eph.5:15-21, be wise not foolish, be filled with the Holy Spirit, give praise and thanks

Col.1:9-14, in remembrance of our redemption, walk worthily with joy, praise and thanks

Col.2:5-12, in Christ we are made whole, our faith in Him is expressed with gratitude

Col.4:2, St. Paul instructs us to be devoted in prayer with watchfulness and thanksgiving

1Thes.3:6-12, in joyful prayer we are to be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ

1Thes.5:16-18, forever rejoicing and thanking God is His will for us

Rev.7:11-12, a vision of the eternal thanksgiving before God

Praise:

Ps.28:7, praise expressed in thankfulness

Ps.68:3-4, praising and rejoicing in appreciation of righteousness

Ps.95:1-7, joyful praise and thanksgiving for the awesome power and glory of our Lord

Ps.106:1-5, discerning souls praise God for His goodness and His gifts

Lk.10:17-21, praising God for our place in Heaven and our powers in Christ

Lk.19:35-40, the coming of our Lord is cause for irrepressible praise

Lk.24:44-53, praising God for the completed work of Christ on the cross

Rom.12:9-13, St. Paul teaches that we are to rejoice (give praise) for our hope in our Lord

2Cor.1:8-11, St. Paul’s praise (thanksgiving) in blessed service to our Lord despite hardships

2Cor.8:1-2, the praise of giving results in a joy that leads to even greater giving

Phil.4:4-7, praise God always; allow all to see our joy, peace and thankfulness

Col.3:12-17, praising God by living as Jesus taught with songs and thankfulness

Rev.4:5-11, a vision of the eternal praise (worship) for our Creator

 

 

Commentaries:

Joy:

“…when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God, then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him, and is no longer troubled or anxious.  Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gifts of grace it has received.  And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.

Slowly the man emerges from the tears of distress and from the passions, and enters fully into the state of spiritual joy.  Through the things that bring him pleasure, he is made humble and grateful; through trials and temptations his hope in the world to come is consolidated; in both he rejoices, and naturally and spontaneously he loves God and all men as his benefactors.  He finds nothing in the whole of creation that can harm him.  Illumined by the knowledge of the God he rejoices in the Lord on account of all the things that He has created, marveling at the care He shows for His creatures.  The person who has attained spiritual knowledge not only marvels at visible things, but also is astounded by his perception of many essential things invisible to those who lack experience of this knowledge.”

St. Peter of Damaskos (11th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 261

Thankfulness:

“Providence has planted a divine standard or law in created beings, and in accordance with this law when we are ungrateful for spiritual blessings we are schooled in gratitude by adversity, and brought to recognize through this experience that all such blessings are produced through the workings of divine power.  This is to prevent us from becoming irrepressibly conceited, and from thinking in our arrogance that we possess virtue and spiritual knowledge by nature and not by grace.  If we did this we would be using what is good to produce what is evil:  the very things which should establish knowledge of God unshaken within us will instead be making us ignorant of Him.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 212 #12

 

“God has done all things for our benefit.  We are guarded and taught by the angels; we are tempted by the demons so that we may be humbled and have recourse to God, thus being saved from self-elation and delivered from negligence.  On the one hand, we are led to give thanks to our Benefactor through the good things of this world, by which I mean health, prosperity, strength, rest, joy, light, spiritual knowledge, riches, progress in all things [productivity], a peaceful life, the enjoyment of honors, authority, abundance and all the other supposed blessings of this life.  We are led to love Him and to do what good we can, because we feel we have a natural obligation to repay God for His gifts to us by performing good works. It is of course impossible to repay Him, for our debt always grows larger.  On the other hand, through what are regarded as hardships we attain a state of patience, humility and hope of blessing in the age to be; and by these so called hardships I mean such things as illness, discomfort, tribulation, weakness, unsought distress, darkness, ignorance, poverty, general misfortune, the fear of loss, dishonor, affliction, indigence, and so on.  Indeed, not only in the age to be, but even in this present age these things are a source of great blessing to us.

Thus God in His unutterable goodness has arranged all things in a marvelous way for us: and if you want to understand this and to be as you should, you must struggle to acquire the virtues so as to be able to accept with gratitude everything that comes, whether it is good or whether it appears to be bad, and to remain undisturbed in all things.  And even when the demons suggest some pride-provoking thought in order to fill you with self-elation, you should remember the shameful things they have said to you in the past and should reject this thought and become humble.  And when they again suggest to you something shameful, you should remember that pride-provoking thought and so reject this new suggestion. Thus through the cooperation of grace and by means of recollection, you make the demons cast out the demons, and are not brought to despair because of their shameful suggestions, or driven out of your mind because of your own conceit.  On the contrary, when your intellect is exalted, you take refuge in humility; and when your enemies humble you before God, you are raised up through hope.  In this way until your last breath you will never become confused and fall, or through fear succumb to despair.”

St. Peter of Damaskos (11th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 173-174

Praise:

“What is meant by the worship of God?  It means that we have nothing extraneous in our intellect when we are praying to Him: neither sensual pleasure as we bless Him, nor malice as we sing His praise, nor hatred as we exalt Him, nor jealousy to hinder us as we speak to Him and call Him to mind.  For all these things are full of darkness; they are a wall imprisoning our wretched soul, and if the soul has them in itself it cannot worship God with purity.  They obstruct its ascent and prevent it from meeting God; they hinder it from blessing Him inwardly and praying to Him with sweetness of heart, and so receiving His illumination.  As a result the intellect is always shrouded in darkness and cannot advance in holiness, because it does not make the effort to uproot these thoughts by means of spiritual knowledge.”

St. Isaiah The Solitary (4th or 5th C.?); The Philokalia Vol. I, pg. 24-25 #13

“In reverence, man refrains from doing what he usually likes to do, which is to take possession of and use something for his own purposes.  Instead he steps back and keeps his distance.  This creates a spiritual space in which that which deserves reverence can stand erect, detached, and free, in all its splendor.  The more lofty an object, the more the feeling of value which it awakens is bound up with this keeping one’s distance.”

Romano Guardini (1885-1968); “Learning the Virtues” pg. 58; Sophia Inst. Press © 1998

“The basic act of this reverence is the adoration of God.  It expresses the true nature of man most perfectly, especially if the body also performs the act in bowing.  It must give us pause to note that this attitude is so very inconspicuous in religions life.  Usually we find only petition or thanks, and less frequently, praise; adoration scarcely ever appears.  And yet it is so essential.  ‘I adore God’ means I am aware that He is and that I stand before Him; that He is the one who essentially is, the Creator, and that I am His creature; that He is holy and I am not, and that I adapt myself with heart and mind to the Holy One who confronts me.  Adoration is truth in act.”

ibid. pg. 64

“Praise God, from whom all blessing flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  Amen”

Thomas Ken (1637-1711) as quoted in “The Baptist Hymnal” #253,

Convention Press © 1991

Chapter 15 – Perpetuating Virtue – Purity, Simplicity, Honesty, and Integrity

Purity:  clarity of vision in pursuing God who is holy and pure; the total absence of any adulteration of the indwelling Holy Spirit; absolute cleanliness and absolute goodness; godly perfection; communicating the Word of God without dilution, pollution, or compromise

Simplicity:  having only the single desire to please God as one’s motivation

Honesty:  knowing and pursuing Truth; communicating Truth in word and deed; being just and fair in interactions and dealing with others so as to affirm their dignity; the absence of deceit

Integrity:  steadfast commitment to honesty and Truth; uprightness; consistently being fair and just; devout, devoted

Upright:  continual commitment to living a virtuous life in the presence of God

Steadfast: firm loyalty to the ways of God, an unchanging desire to be with God; fortitude

 

The further along we proceed in our pursuit of virtues, we should see more overlap in their expression, and more intricacy in their interdependence.  Let us pray now neither to lose attentiveness nor become weary in our pursuit as we experience repeated thoughts cast only in new shades of meaning.  Let us continue without contempt for redundancy, for the portrait yet lacks many brush strokes; there is a variety of colors yet missing.  The circle representing our pursuit of virtue is still just an open loop; our first revolution is incomplete and there is much left to cover before encompassing an understanding of the love of God.

 

Chapter 12 on faith and courage used the analogy of being the wheels on which our pursuit of virtue rolls; similarly, this chapter can be seen as the lubricant on the axels that allows those wheels to spin in perpetuity.  Some virtues seem to have their moments; others seem to be constants.  Though infinite in nature, some we seem able to grasp, or at least be at peace with our progress for a season, while others always seem to leave us grasping.  Need it be said that we should neither be wholly satisfied with our progress nor should we fail to celebrate our successes with joy and thankfulness.  Although our individual experiences in pursuit of virtue need not be the same, when the virtues of purity, simplicity, honesty and integrity are spoken of collectively, the fact that this pursuit is never ending becomes a comforting thought rather than having a laborious or futile tone as when first introduced as a journey without end.  While we contemplate the holiness of God and the example of Jesus while in this body of flesh, then add these virtues to the list of characteristics we as children of God are to possess, the road ahead no doubt seems long.  However, the beauty along the way gives our trek a warm and inviting presence, arousing our desire to draw nearer to the visions we now behold of an abundant and virtuous life.

 

Purity is dependent upon a right relationship with God made possible through Christ Jesus and allows us to see beautiful visions of God that keep us wanting to grow nearer to Him.  Simplicity keeps us focused on God.  Honesty simplifies our thoughts so that we do not lose our focus on His priorities.  Being cognizant of integrity binds our efforts together into a cohesive, continuous whole which helps prevent compromising our virtues.

 

Purity

 

In our pursuit of virtue, our movement toward greater intimacy with God and our spiritual growth, though there are many contributing elements, purity is what best encapsulates all that is needed to grow nearer to God.  With purity, the stumbling blocks impeding our way are removed so that we might progress toward Him.  With purity, the fog that clouds our eyes and befuddles our thoughts begins to dissipate such that we begin to see God more clearly.  With purity, the din of distractions is quieted, allowing the Word of God to be easily absorbed into our souls.  With purity, the aromas of the goodness of God and the wondrous joys of His presence are partaken of more freely.  However, for all the picturesque language used here to illustrate purity, the means of obtaining it are rather direct and concrete, and have been listed previously in chapter 10.  Item number six from the list, regular housecleaning, is of particular importance.  Learning to recognize our own shortcomings, the willingness to claim them followed by the desire to be free of them, is what is most needed to pursue purity.  In other words, practice confession and repentance, perform any necessary restitution, and humbly learn the way of forgiveness, both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness to others.  A habit of dispelling ungodly temptations is likewise needed.  A pitfall to be wary of as we progress in the ways of purity is to become disproportionately sensitive to the shortcomings of others and proudly take it upon ourselves to point out the faults of those around us.  Jesus instructs us to be clean ourselves before attempting to help others with their shortcomings (Mt.7:1-5).  We should be motivated by compassion for another’s well being, not on a crusade to eliminate another’s sin while overlooking our own shortcomings.  Similarly, St. Paul teaches us to bear one another’s burdens and gently help restore our brother or sister who succumbs to temptation only after examining ourselves (Gal.6.1-5).  For every occasion that the Lord calls us to assist another with their failings, there may well be a thousand different convictions from the Holy Spirit we are to address in ourselves first.  Anyone who spends more time addressing another’s failings than their own has succumbed to the pitfalls of self-righteous pride and false piety, and instead of being virtuous, has become a trivially trite and pesky meddler.

 

Purity is an internal quality of cleanliness and holiness, a godliness that originates only from the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, emanating an aura of goodness that is recognizable to both the godly and ungodly alike.  To the godly, such visions create longings to be closer to God and have greater possession of His goodness.  To the ungodly, it stirs a maddening lust as the contrast between purity and filth becomes unbearably obvious, rousing the unfettered demons and provoking an insatiable desire to mar and sully that which exposes their ugliness.  It is a venomous jealousy that rationalizes soiling another in an attempt to improve one’s perception of self (Jn.3:19-21, Ac.5:16-18, Jas.4:1-10, 1Pe.5:8, 1Jn.3:1-13). Therefore, purity must be protected wherever it exists, and nurtured to maturity wherever its seeds have been planted (Mt.7:6, 1Cor.6:15-20).

 

Purity gives the children of God visions of the Eternal that the ungodly can neither see nor comprehend.  Such visions color our world with fullness and beauty, with rightness and understanding, and with warmth and comfort.  Glimpses of the hand of God in everyday situations and events occur with greater frequency as we progress in our pursuit of purity.  The hand of God, the handiwork of His providential care, becomes more evident more often as purity clears the fog of the flesh and godly discernment begins to govern our perceptions.  When a heart is pure, the Word of God will come to life as part of our understanding of the world around us.  Children are no longer just kids, but a wealth of scripture verses instructing us in their precious care and remembrances of our own relationship with our Father in Heaven.  The people around us become our brothers and sisters in Christ, equally loved by God and our eternal cohabitants in Heaven.  Similarly, our eyes will see illustrations of the Word of God coming to life in events, circumstances and relationships.  We will see the lessons of biblical stories relived in our daily lives.  However, our observance of His Living Word is not to be passive, but interactive.  We are called upon to live out what we have learned and interject His Word back into our surroundings by taking action in accordance with the Truth.  By acting on faith in this way, our own actions become experiential lessons that reinforce our trust in His Word.  When we humbly submit to His Lordship, we step into His presence and become united with God.

 

Preserving our purity causes otherwise mundane interactions to become an occasion to experience the ecstasy of being in His magnificent presence.  However, the pursuit of purity also puts us in the arena of spiritual warfare as combatants.  Our displays of goodness stir the demons to spew their foul bile upon our godly intentions, but our desire for purity should motivate us not to return evil for evil.  Instead, we choose to maintain our vision of God by infusing His goodness into all our circumstances, defeating the wicked demons and causing them to flee in fear and humiliation.

 

Simplicity

            To most of us, trying to remember everything scripture teaches us at any given moment would be a daunting and laborious chore, and the large volume of mental activity could potentially paralyze us into inactivity.  Furthermore, due to the corruption of our flesh that seeks to sate personal preferences and selfish desires, we’re so prone to jumbling priorities and misapplying lessons that our expressions of true virtue are ever in danger of disappearing altogether.  However, God knows us and is well aware of our propensity for complication and losing focus.  As timely as the teachings of Jesus concerning simplicity were in His day (Lk.10:38-42), the need for simplicity in the lives of all the children of God is never outdated, and very likely intensifies as we take on the weightier issues of world around us today.  The Law of God and the gospel of Christ Jesus clearly teach us that we are to love God first and foremost, and as a corollary, love our neighbors as ourselves (Deut.6:5, Lev.19:17-18, Mt.22:36-40).  We are to love others as God loves us and as an expression of our love for God and for all His creation.  When we recall that Jesus taught us that the Law of God depends solely upon loving God and others as ourselves, and when we allow its application to override all other considerations that we are prone to contrive, we practice the virtue of simplicity.  Should we ever get lost along our way or otherwise become unable to discern the Word of God in a particular situation, simplicity is the virtue that will restore our spiritual senses so that we may again see His hand and hear His voice. All we need do is search our hearts, examine our motivations, remove all the selfish and unclean thoughts, and then beseech God in prayerful remembrance of the example of Christ, asking how we might express His love in the moment.

 

Honesty

 

Self-examination requires the virtue of honesty.  Honesty is the awareness of Truth and adherence to truth combined with the absence of the intent to deceive.  It is very easy to lie to ourselves for the sake of protecting a favorable self-image, telling ourselves we are things we are not simply for the sake of feeling good about ourselves.  However, God sets the standard and God is the judge, and we are to subject our opinions of ourselves to the Truth of God.  The truth is, we all have shortcomings and there is always room for improvement (Rom.3:23).  Just to give this thought a quick nod of affirmation without delineating our shortcomings is contrary to the pursuit of virtue.  If we fail to be honest with ourselves, we lose our credibility, essentially nullifying any potential to be a witness for godly virtue.

 

There are two categories for being honest to be discussed here.  The first is adherence to Truth, abiding in the Word of God.  The second is adherence to truth, correctly relating facts and abstaining from intentional deception.  Being honest with the Truth is to bring our perceptions in line with the Word of God, forsaking fantasies and imaginations in order to be free of ungodly delusions.  A teaching on being honest with Truth comes from 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us”.  In addition, if we believe we are of greater worth to God than other souls, we are harboring a belief contrary to scripture (Rom.5:8).  If we believe that someone doesn’t deserve to be shown the love of God because of some shortcoming we may perceive in them, our belief is again contrary to scripture (Jn.3:16).  If we attempt to discount our own shortcomings because they somehow seem less offensive than the ones we discern in others, we partake in lies and deceptions that are likewise contrary to the Word of God (Jn.8:1-11).  To overcome these failings, we pray for the willingness to learn the ways of self-examination and to have the ability to accept the Truth of God as it pertains to each of us individually.

 

Adherence to truth means being honest with people, doing so affirms their dignity and simplifies the interactions of relationships.  Despite the variety of selfish and self-serving reasons we may use to deprive others of the truth, contriving stories complicates matters and is a way of conveying the message that someone is unworthy of the truth.  Unworthy in that the decision has been made for them that they can’t handle the truth, or do not deserve to know it.  The complications arise when we attempt to manipulate other’s thoughts and actions; one lie requires more lies to sustain it.  Also, covering up the truth with stories may require telling different people different things, and puts a person in a position to have to remember every version of every story they ever told and who it was told to.  Manipulating others with stories and lies is contrary to faith, primarily because dishonesty is ungodly, but also because it is an attempt to usurp the providence of God by arrogantly attempting to impose one’s will upon others.  However, let’s not deny that there are situations where withholding facts may be more loving than inflicting the pain that accompanies them.  Navigating our way through these situations is best done with the assistance of a trusted guide since we are apt to be blinded to our own underlying motivations, especially if we are likewise experiencing pain and are seeking a means of alleviating it.  The greater our vested interest in a situation, the greater the potential for improperly discerning our true motivations.  Should we find ourselves in a situation where our honesty seems compromised, our perception of His will for us is likely to appear muddled and clouded with fog, but this is not cause to proceed in a muddled fog.  The way of God is light, if we lose sight of His way all we need do is hold our ground, remain mindful of His Word, seek prayerful guidance, practice simplicity, seek counsel from a trusted confidant, and be patient until the fog clears.  When it does, we can then proceed with a clear conscience.

 

Integrity

 

Integrity fosters trust from those around us as we become known for our honesty and fairness.  Integrity is the virtue that enables a soul to be a trusted servant of God.  Integrity is born of our internal purity while its external expression in turn preserves purity.  Integrity is the constancy of honesty and Truth, uprightness in demeanor and steadfast steps in the ways of our Lord.  Integrity is our living loyalty to the gospel message despite the tolls exacted by the many antagonists who seek to persecute Christ and those influenced by His goodness.  Integrity requires perseverance and courage, and this strength of character can only be attributed to the grace of God.  It is a grace bestowed when we are willing to do our part and take a stand against the scourge of ungodliness.  Such willingness comes when we decide to make the love of God our first priority with full knowledge that it costs us everything we would otherwise claim to be ours alone.  All our possessions must be surrendered to the care and governance of God.  Not merely material possessions or wealth, but also our loved ones, our thoughts, our actions, and our inalienable rights.  When we choose obedience to God over self-interests, we surrender everything pertaining to our lives.  To illustrate, if we feel a need to defend our dignity when persecuted with insults, we are choosing self-interest over the expression of love of God if we do so without concern for the perpetrators or respond to them with any form of ungodliness.  Likewise, we may be called upon to sacrifice our right to life in defense of others when evil is moved to violence against the children of God.  Integrity is not blind or mindless obedience.  Integrity sees both the evil and the good, and the consequences of each is understood when decisions are made.  However, choosing goodness and righteousness is always the foregone conclusion when pursuing the virtue of integrity.

 

 

Scriptural References:

 

Purity

Ps.18:26, our purity allows us to see the purity of God

Ps.19:9, purity comes from fear of the Lord and lasts eternally

Ps.24:3-5, purity allows us to enter the presence of God and brings His blessings

Ps.51:7-14, as God cleanses us of sin and ungodliness, we learn the joy of His salvation

Ps.73:1, a pure heart brings the goodness of God into our lives

Ps.119:9, instruction from the Word of God guides us in keeping our ways pure

Pr.21:8, the conduct of the pure is upright

Mt.5:8, purity gives us visions of God

Mt.5:48, purity as all encompassing perfection in the Lord

1Cor.4:2-5, purity as a clear conscience that avails itself to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit

2Cor.6:1-10, purity is required for an unblemished ministry

2Cor.7:1, be free of all defilements, perfecting holiness in the fear of God

Php.1:9-11, knowledge and discernment are required in order to be pure (blameless)

Php.2:14-16, grumbling and arguing compromise the purity of our service to our Lord

Php.4:8-9, maintaining our purity brings the peace of the Lord

1Tim.1:5, St. Paul teaches that the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart

2Tim.2:20-23, purity allows us to be useful in our service to our Lord

Heb.10:19-25, cleansed by the blood of Christ we may draw near to God in purity

1Jn.1:8-10, first acknowledge sinfulness before confession and being cleansed

 

Simplicity:

Lev.19:18, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves

Deut.6:5, we are to love God with all our heart and soul

Mt.6:28-34, Jesus teaches to seek God first and trust Him to provide

Mt.22:35-40, Jesus teaches that loving God is most important, followed by loving others

Lk.10:38-42, Jesus tells Martha, despite all her activities, that only one thing is necessary

Jn.5:30, Jesus explains that He seeks solely to do the will of the Father

1Cor.13:13, St. Paul teaches that love is the greatest virtue

 

Honesty:

Lev.19:35-36, the Law of God instructs us to be honest in our business practices

Deut.25:15-16, unfair business practices are an abomination with ungodly consequences Zech.8:16-17, the Law commands us to speak the truth; He hates dishonesty and perjury

Mt.5:37, Jesus teaches us to answer with either a “yes” or a “no”

2Cor.10:5, St. Paul teaches us to be free of fantasies for they are contrary to Truth

Col.3:9, St. Paul teaches us not to partake of the evil practice of telling lies

Jas.5:12, do not swear by Heaven or Earth, but answer with “yes” or “no”

 

Integrity:  

Pr.10:9, integrity secures our ways while those who pervert His ways can’t hide

Pr.11:3, integrity is a guide, dishonesty and treachery destroy those who practice them

Mt.22:16, Jesus sets example of being true to God and impartial towards men

2Cor.1:12, the witness of St. Paul includes his integrity

Titus 2:6-8, uphold sound doctrine, practice virtue, and be an example above reproach

 

Uprightness:

Ps.7:10, God protects the upright and holds them dearly

Ps.119:7, uprightness is an expression of gratitude as we learn of the goodness of God

Ps.140:13, uprightness is being mindful of being in His presence with thankfulness

Pr.2:7-9, God provides the upright with wisdom and discernment and protects the godly

Pr.3:31-32, uprightness leads to intimacy with God

Pr.11:6, uprightness spares us the calamities of sinfulness

Pr.14:11, the upright will flourish, the wicked will be destroyed

Pr.15:8, God enjoys the prayers of the upright, false worship is an abomination to Him

Pr.15:19, the way of the lazy has many barriers, the path of the upright is clear

Pr.21:8, purity is foundational to upright behavior

Pr.21:29, uprightness leads to confidence in our ways before our Lord

Is.26:7-10, uprightness born of remembrance of the majesty of God

Is.57:1-2, uprightness brings the peace of our Lord

Titus 1:7-9, St. Paul lists the necessary qualifications of the upright (just) church elder

Titus 2:11-12, by the grace of God we live uprightly, in remembrance and in hope

 

Steadfastness:

Ps.51:10-12, steadfastness born of longing to be in His presence; willingness to repent

Ps.112:5-7, steadfastness as trusting in God and not succumbing to worldly fears

Ps.119:5-6, steadfastness spares us the shame of disobedience

Is.26.3, steadfastness brings the peace of our Lord

1Cor.15:56-58, our victory in Christ over death enables us to be steadfast and faithful

Col.1:19-23, being steadfast in our hope in Christ and His Word keeps us upright

Heb.6:16-20, our steadfastness has God as its surety

1Pet.5:9-11, steadfastness as having well-established habits in the ways of our Lord

 

Commentaries:

 

Purity:

“We should zealously cultivate watchfulness, my brethren; and when – our mind purified in Christ Jesus – we are exalted by the vision it confers, we should review our sins and our former life, so that shattered and humbled at the thought of them we may never lose the help of Jesus Christ our God in the invisible battle.  If because of pride, self-esteem [elevated sense of self-worth], or self-love [narcissism] we are deprived of Jesus’ help, we shall lose that purity of heart through which God is known to man.  For, as the Beatitude states, purity of heart is the ground for the vision of God (cf. Mt. 5:8).”

St. Hesychios the Priest (9th C.); The Philokalia Vol. I, pg.171 #52

 

 

“If we preserve, as we should, that purity of heart or watch and guard of the intellect whose image is the New Testament, this will not only uproot all passions and evils from our hearts; it will also introduce joy, hopefulness, compunction, sorrow, tears, an understanding of ourselves and of our sins, mindfulness of death, true humility, unlimited love of God and man, and an intense and heartfelt longing for the divine.”

ibid. pg. 181 #113

 

 

“Purification of heart, through which we acquire humility and every blessing that comes from above, consists simply in our not letting evil thoughts enter the soul.”

ibid. pg. 196 #193

Simplicity:

…simplicity is nothing more than an act of pure and simply charity, having only one aim and end, which is to acquire the love of God; and our soul is simple when we have no other aim in all that we do or desire.”

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622); “The Art of Loving God” pg. 105;

 Sophia Inst. Press © 1986

 

Honesty:

“All relations of men with each other, the whole life of the community, depend on faithfulness to truth.

 

“What forms the bridge [the bonding of souls in a trusting relationship]?  The facial expression and gestures, the bearing and actions, but, above all, the word.  The more reliable the word, the more secure and fruitful the communication is.”

 

“…we have two elements which must accompany the desire for truth if the complete virtue is to develop:  consideration for the person addressed and courage when truth-telling becomes difficult.”

Romano Guardini (1885-1968); “Learning the Virtues” pg. 16, 17;

 Sophia Inst. Press © 1998

Integrity:

“…a person of integrity [does not] take advantage of people.  Integrity shares knowledge with others rather than hoarding it for personal gain.”

James S. Bell Jr. and Stan Campbell; “A Return to Virtue” pg. 122,

Northfield Publishing © 1995

“When we think of integrity, we think of someone who is honorable and trustworthy – a person who keeps their word and guards their reputation.  To be called a man or woman of integrity is a high compliment.  Such a person knows the difference between right and wrong and diligently pursues doing right, no matter what the obstacles.  Jesus provides the best example of a man of integrity; He was not swayed by outer influences but lived a life above reproach.  Integrity comes not just from the pursuit of right living, but the pursuit of God, which leads to right living.”

Elaine Wright Colvin and Elaine Creasman;

“Treasury of God’s Virtues” pg 155, Publications International, Ltd. © 1999