Thursday, March 30, 2023

Finding Freedom Through Virtue


 Followers of Jesus are to live with virtue. To live with virtue is to be a person of character that is defined by the high moral qualities of love, honesty, compassion, mercy, and faith. These are the qualities that empower us to demonstrate God’s character in the world.

The Bible, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, provides us with the wisdom we need to be people of Christian virtue. One of the ways the Bible provides us with wisdom is through examples. These examples are not always good examples, but God intends for them challenge us in how we live. The are to get us to think about how we can live faithful lives in our situations.

One such example can be found in the book of Exodus.

Exodus is the story of the Israelites, who experienced a life of slavery for over 400 years. Their existence was marked by suffering, oppression, and forced labor. Yet, it is in this painful reality that God grew the clan of Jacob into a nation.

When the time was right, God had a plan to set them free. This plan was built around a man named Moses. He was born to Hebrew parents and raised in by Pharaoh’s daughter. This gave Moses a unique perspective on the situation, but before Moses was fully prepared to lead Israel, he spent 40 years in the wilderness herding sheep. All these experiences molded Moses into the leader God would use to lead Israel out of a life of slavery and into a life of freedom.

Not only did the Israelites need to be freed from their physical enslavement, they also needed to be freed from their spiritual enslavement. They had been living in a pagan culture that worshiped false gods, and as a result, they had become enslaved to the sinful practices and values of that culture.

God knew that in order to truly be free, the Israelites needed to be transformed from the inside out. They needed to turn away from their sinful ways and embrace a life of virtue. God’s desire was for Israel to be a light to the nations by demonstrating His character.

Through Moses, God created a covenant with Israel. The moral foundation of this covenant is summed up in what we call the Ten Commandments. This covenant would serve as a guide for living a virtuous life. These terms of the covenant were not given to enslave the Israelites, but rather to guide them away from the terrible cultural practices that enslaved their neighbors and kept them living in darkness.

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Moses told the Israelites:
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the LORD your God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. For he is your life, and he will prolong your days as you live in the land the LORD swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (CSB)
The virtuous life requires making a choice: following God’s will or doing what seems best to us. This is the choice that set before all of us, and it is crucial that we make the right choice.

To live with virtue means choosing the way of God even when it is difficult and we don’t have all the answers. It means choosing to love God and to love our neighbors, even when it requires sacrifice. And it means putting aside our own selfish desires and ambitions, in order to serve those around us.

When we live with virtue, we find freedom from the consequences of bad choices that would otherwise lead us into slavery. We become free to serve others, just as Jesus came to serve us.

In John 13:14-15, Jesus told his disciples,
“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.” (CSB)
Jesus, who is the perfect image of God, lived a loving and humble life which empowered him to serve people. If we are going to demonstrate God’s character in this world then we need to follow the example of Jesus.

This is why virtue is crucial for Christians.

Living a life of virtue requires humility, selflessness, and treating others the way we want to be treated. When we live like this, we find the freedom God has promised to His people. We are free to love, free to serve, and free to make a difference in the world around us.

Living with virtue is not about being perfect or never making mistakes. It's about making choices that align with God's will, and seeking to live a life that reflects his love and grace.

When we do this, we find freedom from the consequences of bad choices that would otherwise lead us into the slavery of sin. And in that freedom, we are free to help and serve those around us, just as King Jesus did for us.

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