I sat down at my desk one day and was startled when I felt something grab my legs. My daughter Hannah was curled up underneath hiding from her brother Kyle. I know this because she told me. I was confused because I had just seen Kyle watching TV in the other room with no concern of the world around him. After some investigative work I found out that he couldn’t find her so he gave up and started watching T.V. She had been hiding for about a half-hour. If hide-and-seek were an Olympic sport, Hannah would surely be a gold medalist.
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus reveals an aspect of God’s commands that is often missed when our relationship to Him become more about religion than anything. Jesus tells the people that technically following the law is not what God desires. It is not enough not to kill—hatred is just as evil, being loyal to your spouse means not fantasizing about others, marriage must be taken seriously.
Don’t seek retribution but instead encourage transformation to good, and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the sons of the Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45 NIV). These are all heart issues that call the follower of Christ to not just keep rules because they have to but instead to become disciples who do so out of a genuine love for others. It’s not just about doing good things but doing good things with the right motive—this is virtue.
Virtue is something that every Christian is called to seek, and not just some cheap form of virtues that look like following a bunch of rules, but rather a virtue that flows from a heart transformed by God. And this can be hard, frustrating and even feel a lot like we are chasing after unicorns. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.”
So how hard do we really try to become the people God has called us to be, to reflect His image of love and hope into this world? Are we becoming a church that settles for just claiming our salvation because of a prayer and then sweeping out a few bad habits from our lives? I can’t imagine how that glorifies God or how it shows our love for our neighbor.
Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NIV). What Jesus tells us to find is difficult. We know that we are not perfect, that we will encounter failure, and that even the most righteous Christian will sin; but does that mean that we shouldn’t even try? Jesus’ sermon tells us that God desires that we aim for something nobler than just joining a church and keeping rules, He is telling that that we should aim to become nothing less than Christ-like. “Keeping our eyes fixed upon Jesus the author and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a NIV).
When someone is looking for Hannah she’s difficult to find; she is small, patient, and quiet. Finding the virtues that Jesus calls us to is not easy either but we cannot give up and hope that it will reveal itself or settle for letting others be the saints. Let us become a people who do hard things and practice love when hatred is acceptable to the world, let us practice integrity even when our carnal nature feels right, let us share hope even we struggle with it, and let us be the Church of Christ that actually seeks to be like Jesus. It is only then that we can find virtue in our own lives.
Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet at 9 a.m. Sundays for Sunday school and at 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!