Becoming Virtuous Persons – from Leanne’s Archives
Posted on August 30th, 2016
Becoming Virtuous Persons
By Leanne Payne
from her newsletter archives, Fall 1996
Run your lives by the Spirit. Then you will not do what your old nature wants.
Galatians 5:16 Jewish New Testament
To be led by Christ is to walk in the Spirit, and to walk in the Spirit has this ennobling
corollary: its wondrous flipside, as it were, is ongoing death to the Old Man.
For the old nature wants what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is contrary to the old nature. These oppose each other, so that you find yourselves unable to carry out your good intentions. But if you are led by the Spirit, then you are not in subjection to the system that results from perverting the Torah into legalism.
Galatians 5:17,18 JNT
When we walk in the Spirit, the Lord creates in us the fruits and gifts of His character – we become virtuous persons. What a wonderful word virtue is; what a wonderful epithet to have – that of being a virtuous person. And in union with Christ, we can all be that. The biblical texts above were penned by St. Paul, one who before his conversion put Christians to death; yet, he who considered himself to have been the “chiefest of sinners” became one of the greatest men in history. A man full of Christ, full of virtue.
Most moderns have to ask themselves what exactly is this thing called virtue. Well, first of all it is a quality and C. S. Lewis helps us understand this:
A man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is that quality rather than the particular actions which we mean when we talk of “virtue.” This distinction is important for the following reason. If we thought only of the particular actions we might encourage three wrong ideas:
1) We might think that, provided you did the right thing, it did not matter how or why you did it….But the truth is that right actions done for the wrong reason do not help to build the internal quality or character called a “virtue,” and it is this quality or character that really matters.
2) We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort. [See St. Paul’s words above about perverting Torah into legalism.]
3) We might think that the “virtues” were necessary only for this present life….The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside them then no possible external conditions could make them happy with the deep, strong, unshakable kind of happiness God intends for us.
Mere Christianity, Book III, Ch 2.
Reprinted with permission, copyright ©1999-2013 by Leanne Payne Literary Trust