Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Humility, Charity, Patience, and Chastity

Queen Anne's Lace
N.T. Wright, in After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, identifies four cardinal virtues that characterize actual followers of Jesus. They are: humility, charity, patience, and chastity. This "composite of virtues" is what True Humanity looks like, and Jesus, among other things, exemplifies such humanity. Jesus-followers are to look like Jesus, just as a disciple is to look like his mentor, as a student looks like his teacher.

Wright writes:

"It is thus more or less impossible to speak of God with any conviction or effect if those who profess to follow Jesus are not exemplifying humility, charity, patience, and chastity. These are not optional extras for the especially keen, but the very clothes which the royal priesthood must “put on” day by day. If the vocation of the royal priesthood is to reflect God to the world and the world back to God (the world, that is, as it was made to be and as, by God’s grace, it will be one day), that vocation must be sustained, and can only be sustained, by serious attention to “putting on” these virtues, not for the sake of a self-centered holiness or pride in one’s own moral achievement, but for the sake of revealing to the world who its true God really is." (p. 247)

Forget speaking of God to others if your heart is proud, miserly, irritable, and perverted. Obviously Jesus hasn't made an impact on such a person's life, so why would anyone listen to them, about anything? Christian character matters, not as a means to gaining God's acceptance, but as marks of real, transforming Christianity.

The Jesus-follower who follows Jesus into his ever-presence will inexorably be morphed into a humble person who is free from the need for self-congratulation and self-adulation, into a loving person whose heart's modus operandi is dialed into the needs of others, into a person who can wait because their heart has great enduring staying power, and into a pure thing whose sexual desires have been freed from the objectification of others.

All of this is, contrary to our kingdom of darkness culture, massively counter-intuitive. It is the road to freedom, and people truly free in Jesus are possessing these interior qualities.