Common vs. True Virtue
Posted on Aug 7, 2014 in Faith Updates
Greetings Faith Covenant!
Mike Lotzer here with your weekly faith update. Let me talk to you about the theology of virtue for a minute… trust me, understanding this concept is worth your time even if it sounds complex at first.
You see, centuries ago a wise Pastor named Jonathan Edwards suggested that there are really two very different kinds of good behavior—virtue—that we live out.
Virtue is simply stuff like being honest, kind, generous and brave—you get the idea.
Jonathan Edwards basically said that when we humans act virtuous we are either acting out of what he called common virtue or true virtue.
Common virtue is doing the right thing out of fear or pride. True virtue is doing the right thing simply because God is worthy of our total trust and obedience.
Common virtue is being honest because I’m scared of getting caught in a lie—it is still honesty but honesty motivated by fearful self-concern. Or, common virtue is being honest because… “I wouldn’t want to be like those rotten liars who have no morals.” You see what happens in that case? Pride in my own elevated principles is really the driving factor behind my virtue—the reason I tell the truth. Edwards suggested that we should be grateful for common virtue, as it is responsible for making this world a halfway decent place to live. Yet Edwards also suggested that common virtue would never reform the human heart from the inside out.
Why is that you ask? Well, think about it. If I’m only generous because I am fearful that God might not bless me or because I take pride in giving more than other people, what is that doing to my heart and mind over time? My generous actions are actually making me more fearful, or prideful or both. Yet if I give generously to others simply in response to God’s generous nature—in obedience to his command to trust him with the first and best of my income – my heart is really worshiping God, not growing prideful and afraid.
The truth is that you and I are always doing virtuous things out of a mixture of both of these motivations. I volunteer to feed hungry people partly out of selfish motives and partly out of a simple desire to trust God. You do too. Over time though, as we consider how much God loved us—enough to die on the cross—the fear melts away and our motives are purified. And over time, as we consider again and again that though God loved us that much, our condition of pride and fear was so bad that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and die in our place, our pride starts to erode away. If you and I worship, trust and obey God long enough, our acts of obedience and love—our virtues—start to become truer than common virtues in their very nature. That is if we are mindful about our actual motivation.
This week I challenge you to ask God to help you trust and obey Him simply because He is God and you are not. Go be generous or honest or caring not because of fear or pride but because God is perfect generosity, honesty and care. I pray you will be so moved by God’s awesome beauty and love shown through the person of Christ that your virtue will become a bit less common and ring a bit more true.
See below for the list of events and information about what is happening at Faith Covenant. Join me this Sunday as I kick off our new Sermon Series called Family Building.
Here’s What’s Coming Up
Faith Food Outreach
Sign up today in the lobby to volunteer at Food Outreach! There are many ways to volunteer that make a real impact in the lives of the 300+ families we serve each time from our community. We also need donations of children’s books and stuffed animals. For more information, contact Sue at 952.432.5745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Covenant Women’s Retreat
Come join us at Covenant Pines Bible Camp on September 19-21 for our Women’s Retreat. You will enjoy the beauty of northern Minnesota in fall, fellowship with other women, quality worship, and Bible messages. You can also participate in games, pontoon rides, hayrides, a late night party, our high ropes activities, and more, including the opportunity to relax. The cost for regular housing is $125. Register before August 20th to receive a $15 discount. Visit covenantpines.org for more information.
Save the Date for M.O.M.S. Beautiful You
Mark your calendars for the 4th Annual Fall Women’s Fashion Show and Brunch on Saturday, November 1. This wonderful morning includes a fabulous brunch, fun fashion show and special guest speaker and author, Deanna Thompson. Tickets will go on sale in October. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Church Library Book Give Away
As part of our library reorganization, Faith is giving away many non-fiction (and a few fiction) books. If you would like to have any, please feel free to go through the boxes set out in the library.
Responsible Church Makeover
Thank you for your generous hearts and active participation in The Responsible Church Makeover. We have currently received contributions of $179,206 of the $300,000 for Phase I of the project. As the August 15th goal date draws near for our fundraising, we continue to trust in God’s provision and your responsiveness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to join in caring for our church home. It remains our goal to complete this project and the other major facility repairs without borrowing money. Perhaps your family could be one of 50 that will be able to donate $2,000.00 and bring us another $100,000 closer to our goal this week. The work is set to begin the week of September 15th and will take approximately 2 weeks.