Theological Virtues: Faith

“[Faith] is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
-C.S. Lewis

Faith

I have for some time now felt a sense of faith being: doing what you say you will do. That is, a man is faithful if he does what he says he will. He is faithful to his word. All along, at the same time, I felt there was much more to it. After a study on this virtue I think there is.

Still I think my former understanding holds true. A man who says he will so and so and does not, I’ve found is often a case of circumstances. “You see I would not have said I would have such and such if I knew that business about the thing was just round the corner.” Some are more tolerant of circumstances than others, more determined, and so we say they are more faithful or reliant than others.

I heard Zig Ziglar tell a story that paints the picture well I think in Born to Win. The story goes like this. There was a young sailor on a ship out at sea and some weather set on rather quickly. He was directed to hurry up the mast and see to something. Taking something in perhaps before the wind blew harder for too long and damaged something I suppose. The sea had begun to toss and turn as the young sailor made his way up the mast. Looking on an old sailor noticed this young man start to sway and lose his balance. His head looking side to side and his gaze being displaced with each crash of a wave. Just before the young sailor fell, the old sailor shouted, “Look up!”. And upon looking up and setting his sights on his destination the young sailor instantly regained his balance and quite possibly saved his life.

I believe each of us need to steady our gaze as the waves of life crash in to our world. I believe this steadies us. Sets us up. Stations us as something others can lean on and depend on. Produces in us something that we ourselves need to survive the circumstances.

As Christians I believe we are called to hold to our beliefs no matter the circumstances. Not in a stubborn way, but in a consistent way. A dependable way. You see, I think the reason most tend not to prefer the man who says one thing and does another is because we can not depend on him. He fails us. And I believe that this very lack of predictability, this lack of faithfulness, is what makes it difficult for them to relate to others. How do you relate to someone whose beliefs change with the wind? How do you relate to someone who is not sound in who they are? I have come to believe you are forced to take them as they are that day and make the best of it. The issue here being that the relation is very shallow. And I do not mean, diabolical or self seeking, I mean not very meaningful. The soil is shallow, there is just not much there to work with, to relate to. After all think about it, how do you relate to someone you do not know?

Christians can not be this way. Our faith in what we believe can not change with the waves of life. Though we do not know every detail of the future we should at least know that our brothers and sisters in Christ will hold fast to their beliefs. That we also, can be depended upon to have the same view of life tomorrow as today. Not that we will always do the right thing we know right, that is another matter altogether, but that our beliefs remain. This is faith. This is what is at the foundation of deep and meaningful relation to another. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring for another but knowing how they will think about it and look at it and approach it. This can be related to. Search your deepest most meaningful relationships and you will find this. You will find faith in the other.

But faith in what? For a Christian? Christ, of course. Knowing that what He said He would do, He will. Knowing that the words of the Bible are true. Knowing that those that have not come to pass yet will. Knowing that God is who He says He is and always will be. I have come to believe that this is the cornerstone of the eternal relationship with God that we all seek.

Wrapping up this study on the Christian virtues; Faith: an unfailing knowing. Hope: a desire to fulfill. Charity: an unconditional love. This verse cries out to me like never before.

“What a person desires is unfailing love”
Proverbs 19:22a

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from Born to Win by Zig Ziglar

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Theological Virtues: Charity

Charity means ‘Love, in the Christian sense’.
-C.S. Lewis

Charity wanting the best for others

Charity from caritas the standard Latin translation for the Greek word Αγάπη, meaning an unconditional love for others. Charity in old english was defined as a Christian love of one’s fellows. Today charity has come to be thought of mostly in the sense of relief by giving money. But it is much more. Unconditional is such a powerful word when we stop to consider it. Not because of anything. Not in return for anything. Non-negotiable, always, no matter what.

Unconditional seems to be a matter of will instead of feeling. So many times we hear people say things like “[they] are in love”. Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about his belief that love is a verb – that love the feeling is the fruit of love the verb. C.S. Lewis notes a lesson in charity revealing one of the great secrets in life: “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them”. He goes on to explain that this secret also works terribly the other way round. Cruel acts produce hatred and more cruelty and on and on. His point? “Good and evil both increase at compound interest.” This is why the little decisions we make day to day are of such importance. The things we do, the seeds we sow, will come to harvest.

Christians by charity are called to unconditionally want the best for others. This is different from liking people. I do not think Christians are called to like everyone by the virtue of charity. I do however think that wanting the best for people, unconditional of your preference to the way they did so and so or that thing they said or what they think about such and such, produces a genuine and authentic liking of them.

We by our very nature afford perfect charity to ourselves. No matter the condition of our preference for ourselves, we want the very best for us. No matter how we fall short of what we think we ought to have done, that is: the degree to which we like ourselves at the moment, the desire for good things for us never wavers. No matter what. Charity I have come to believe is turning this phenomenon outward toward others.  A Christian, unconditional, love for our fellows.  A Christian, unconditional, desire to see others well.

 

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

The Ten Commandments for Relating to Others

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

-Psalm 119:33-35

Sunrise at Mount Sinai in Egypt

When God gave Moses the ten commandments why did He give them by way of two tablets instead one? Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests the ten commandments were given on two tablets instead one because the two tablets relate to one other.  He suggests the ten commandments are actually five principles, each principle with two applications to make ten. The first tablet, commandments one through five relate to our creator, which includes our parents. The second tablet, commandments six through ten speak to how we are to relate to our peers.  For example, commandments one and six speak to the first principle, where commandment one applies the first principle to our creator and commandment six applies to our peers.  Interesting.

 

The first principle, Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests is:  Others have the right to exist.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
1. I am the Lord your God 6. Thou shalt not murder

I am not the center of the universe.  There are others who exist.  Their right to exist is real as mine.  I am the LORD your God, is where their right to exist comes from.  Rabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the source of power of the second tablets strength lies in the truth of the first tablet.

 

The second principle: Certain relationships are sacred.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Throughout the old testament, when God’s chosen people worshiped false idols it was referred to, by Him, as prostitution.  God wants us to have special relationships that are different from others and we are to uphold these relationships.  It is not good for man to be alone.

 

The third principle: Others, not you, have a right to their possessions.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
3. Thou shalt not take my name in vain 8. Thou shalt not steal

Property is a good thing.  People own things that are theirs and you can not take them. God’s name is his just as your neighbors news paper is theirs.

 

The fourth principle: Others property includes their reputation.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Just as we are called to uphold our peers reputation by not lying about them we are called to uphold God’s reputation as the Creator by keeping the Sabbath day holy.  It does not say ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.’ It says ‘to keep it holy.’ The act of keeping the Sabbath is how we uphold God’s reputation. This is what keeps the Sabbath holy. This is a signal to the world that we belong to God and that God is the Creator.  God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

 

The fifth principle: Our rights have limits

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
5. Honor your father and mother 10.  Thou shalt not covet

Covet is like envy.  I do not want you to have it.  I do not want you to be better than me.  I do not want you to be above me.  Coveting is stepping out of our boundaries with our peers and not honoring our parents is stepping out of our boundaries with those placed above us by God.  Others will be above us in our life and we need to respect that, more we need to see its beauty, and flourish in their protection and love for us.

 

In summary, Rabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the ten commandments are actually five principles with two examples each. One for how we relate to those above us and one for how we relate to those beside us:

  1. I am not the center of the universe, others exist and have a right to,
  2. among those others there is one other that has a unique and special relationship with me,
  3. all other people have a right to their property, and I am not to violate it,
  4. these other people also have reputations which are a most important form of their property not to be overlooked, and
  5. we are to accept and have joy in the place God has us.

 

 

-A takeaway from The Ten Commandments by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Building Goodness: Simplicity

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.”

-King Solomon

Farmer Hand Touching Wheat Ears

Words build up.  Words tear down.  We create simplicity with our words.  We create drama with our words.  The things we say matter.  Each day, each interaction we have a choice to bless people with simplicity or burden them with unnecessary drag.  Our attitude is most critical to building a culture of simplicity in our community and organizations. Are you a culture builder or a culture buster?

What if at the end of a work day when you left to head home you could say “Today I persevered for my fellow, I blessed everyone with my words.  Today I built up the culture I belong to. Never tearing it down with even the slightest unnecessary burden or negativity.  I never criticized, condemned or complained”  How satisfying that day would be. How fulfilled we would feel.

 

-A takeaway from Simplify by Bill Hybels

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

The Power of Giving in Secret

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

-Jesus Christ

Seljalandfoss Waterfall At Sunset In Hdr, Iceland

In his ninth commandment on making money Rabbi Lapin suggests that we should give away ten percent of our income.  He goes on to say that “charity is irrational” as a means to make money but “nevertheless, it benefits the giver in many ways.”

Since we are on the topic of giving I want to retell a story I recently heard Randall Wallace tell about giving in secret.  It goes like this.

Imagine you come home one day after work and park your car in the street.  The next morning you get up and realize someone has dinged your door.  There is no note.  As you leave for work that morning you can not help but look at your neighbors differently.  That little old lady who was once the nicest grandma in the world does not seem so sweet this morning.  The fine young man next door over is now feeling a lot more like a hooligan.  Those lovely little kids playing ball in the street seem a lot more suspicious this morning.

Now lets imagine you came home from work all the same.  After you finished dinner and were getting ready to sit down with a good book you look outside and notice your trash can blew over.  Trash was everywhere.  In one of your weaker moments you decide you will pick it up in the morning.  The next morning you get dressed and go outside to track down your trash.  But you find your trash can upright and your lawn and block free from trash.  Someone had picked it up for you.  Who did this?  Surely it was that little sweet old lady that now that you think of it always smiles at you, she really is the nicest person.  Or perhaps the fine young man who now that you think of it always says hello and remembers your name too, he really is going places.  Or was it the kiddos who are always playing ball in the street and who now that you think of it always see you coming and pause their game without making you wait, what great and considerate kids.

In the second scenario because one neighbor did something good in secret, they built up good will for the whole neighborhood – which by the way includes them too.  The same resources were deployed but the goodness that resulted was multiplied.  Cool.

A deed done in secret multiplies. Good or bad.

 

-A takeaway from Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.