Our chapel theme this semester at Bethlehem College & Seminary is “Uncommon Virtues.” In many ways, it flows from last semester’s theme “Abide in Jesus.” Last fall I defined “abiding in Jesus” as a long-standing orientation to Jesus marked by a conscious sense of dependence and need for Jesus, drawing strength and nourishment from the presence of Jesus, and bearing fruit for the glory of God. When we’re talking about “uncommon virtues,” we’re talking about the “fruit” side of that definition. We’re talking about the various habitual dispositions, inclinations, and actions that flow from that long-standing orientation to Jesus.
In particular, we’re going to focus on sober-mindedness, courage, gentleness, prudence, justice and mercy, bodily stewardship, forgiveness, patience, courtesy, generosity, temperance, humility, empathy or compassion, and faithfulness. And we will do so as thoroughgoing Christians. We believe that our motives matter. The animating principle that produces the virtue matters. It matters that the living God is the source, means, and end of our virtues.
Consider two passages from the Sermon on the Mount.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
In both cases, our virtue is performed before others—light shining and righteousness practiced. One of them is commended; one of them is condemned. There’s a way of being seen by others that doesn’t please God and a way that does. 1 Peter sheds some light:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10–11)
When we serve, we serve as stewards of God’s grace. Our service is something that he works in us without us (meaning, apart from us). We serve in the strength he supplies, because the supplier of strength is the receiver of the glory. This is why Paul regularly expresses the paradox of the Christian life: “I worked harder than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
So as we reflect this semester on virtues, as we explore the habitual exercises of good inclinations, we want to ensure that God is honored as the source, means, and goal of our virtue. From him, through him, and to him are all things; to him be glory forever and ever.
Clinging to Jesus with you,
Joe Rigney, PhD
- Pray that we would each grow in uncommon virtues to the glory of God.
- Pray for continued provision of scholarships that will allow us to graduate students who are ready to launch into life and ministry without the financial burden of student debt.
- Pray that the Lord will use Bethlehem College & Seminary to equip a new generation of theologians and scholars who will handle the Word with reverence, skill, and joy.
- Pray for Serious Joy: The 34th Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, which we will be relaunching in February 2022. Pray for both our preparation and the pastors who will be joining us.