“…giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;" 2 Peter 1:5
Often, when reading Jonathan Edwards, I have to re-read paragraphs a few times to sort of get a handle on them, but it has always been worth the effort.
For the chief and most essential good that is in virtue, is its favouring being in general.
Anything truly virtuous shares this underlying quality. Mr. Edwards distinguishes between a general benevolence and a particular benevolence. People in whom the Holy Spirit has worked manifest a wholesome goodwill toward all of humanity. Particular benevolence refers to a narrow, sectarian approach that we use to determine who will be the benefactors of our goodwill and who will not.
It follows, then, that any selective goodwill not emanating from that concept of general benevolence is an inferior and even counterfeit virtue.
Yea, we are apt, through the narrowness of our views, in judging of the beauty of affections and actions, to limit our consideration to only a small part of the created system. When private affections extend themselves to a considerable number, we are ready to look upon them as truly virtuous, and accordingly to applaud them highly. Thus it is with respect to a man's love to a large party, or a country. For though his private system contains but a small part even of the world of mankind, yet, being a considerable number, they - through the contracted limits of his mind, and the narrowness of his views - are ready to engross his sight, and to seem as if they were all. Hence, among the Romans, love to their country was the highest virtue; though this affection of theirs, so much extolled, was employed as it were for the destruction of the rest of mankind. The larger the number is, to which that private affection extends, the more apt men are, through the narrowness of their sight, to mistake it for true virtue;
Tribalism, street gangs, emotion-charged nationalistic pride, gut-level patriotism, any sense of superiority of one people group over another, the oppression or conquest of weaker people groups by the stronger, colonialism… are things often touted as virtues. However fervent it may be, that kind of selective affection falls pathetically short of the mark.
There is no real virtue that is not benign. There is no real virtue that is not universal in scope. Thus, there is no real virtue that is not first established in a genuine desire for the well-being of all humanity. The only source of genuine goodwill toward all humanity died on a cross, rose again and sits now at the right hand of the Father in glory. He is the Savior of the world.
Believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of heaven, the truest and the best citizens of the world. We work for the largest transnational company on the planet. We ought to be the avant-garde for the best kind of globalization.
Rather than get caught up in the vicious small mindedness so natural to us all, it is time to re-double our efforts to focus on big picture stuff, to embrace true virtue, to live in symmetry with the whole of humanity... so centered that even direct persecution and blatant injustice will not move us. We are embedded in the human experience with one God-given purpose: the reconciliation of sinners to God through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If there is anything virtuous in our thinking, we will find our hearts settled, centered, ruled by a set of criteria that supersedes circumstance. The prevailing desire of our hearts, regardless of provocation, will be the salvation of those yet outside of Christ.
Are we truly virtuous? Are we part of God's avant-garde?
Edited & re-posted from 07/21/2014
Greg grew up in Menomonee Falls, WI. His ministry began in 1976: 5 years in Central America, 36 in Mexico. Church planting and discipleship have been his passion.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." -Matthew 13:44
Concise devotions in Spanish and English, along with some lengthier essays… Designed for personal spiritual growth and to help anyone studying English or Spanish as a second language to improve their skills… Rev 14:6
To highlight one essential facet of the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ... Rev 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:18