What do you think the general public expects from Christians? I guess it would depend on the “general” public you ask. Some would probably expect Christians to be kind while others might expect to see intolerance. Some might look for charity while others might see selfishness. Some might assume to witness faithfulness while others might assume to witness hypocrisy. It seems that the expectations of Christians are hard to pinpoint anymore.
We see it in the news, on television shows, in movies…Christianity is not held in as high esteem as it once was. There are many reasons for this. As we have become more and more silent towards the wrongs of the world, we have become an easy mark for ridicule. Since we probably won’t defend ourselves we have become a comfortable target for persecution. Since we don’t live the life we say we believe in, we’ve become a convenient punching bag for those looking to throw a few blows at our hypocrisy.
That’s what the general public might see, but what does God expect from His people? We find it in 2 Peter 1:3-8, “His (Jesus’) divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
After faith comes virtue and after that comes how virtue is achieved. Virtue is defined by moral excellence, goodness and righteousness. It is not satisfied with “good enough” but strives to be one created in the image of God. It’s a mindset of worship throughout life that thinks of others before themselves. It is a conformity of life to uprightness and devotion to God.
In a world tarnished by sin, this can be very difficult. Temptation, anger and impatience get in the way of virtue through the influence of worldliness. Our Old Adam too easily leads us astray towards things that are ungodly.
So, how are we to achieve virtue in this world? Again, God comes to our rescue. In Philippians 4:8, Paul is speaking to people with negative and dangerous influences all around them. He knows that this new Christian faith will be a challenge, so He gives them this advice, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
That advice has applied to ever Christian ever since. Avoid those things that only serve to steal away your virtue and keep your mind focused on what is good and right. Live your lives “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). This applies not just to God’s eyes but also to the eyes of the world that wait to see what you are made of.
Emulate God to the world by offering them the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Show the world the virtue of God by being virtuous in godly ways, even if it means that by your generosity you have to go without. May godly virtue define you and may God’s blessings abound over you for the virtue you display. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, forgive us for those times we have not tried to achieve moral excellence, goodness and righteousness. Help us to be examples of godly virtue to the world and lead us to paths whereby we might practice what we preach. Amen.