“I exhort you both so to esteem virtue (without which friendship cannot exist), that, excepting virtue, you will think nothing more excellent than friendship.” —Cicero, last sentence of “On Friendship”
When I read this passage this morning I thought of 2 Peter 1:4-8, where he says
- “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”
Faith acts by putting into practice what it believes, and it is the behavior of our lives, not the mental assent to values, that defines our virtue.
I read this too, by Pascal:
- “We must resort to habit once the mind has seen where the truth lies, in order to steep and stain ourselves in that belief…, for it is too much trouble to have the proofs always present before us.”
Once we know the truth we live it out and don’t need to continually go back to the source to be convinced. It becomes the fabric of our lives.
I love this description of what it takes to make a necessary change, spoken by Hamlet:
“Assume a virtue if you have it not.That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,Of habits devil, is angel yet in this:That to the use of actions fair and goodHe likewise gives a frock or liveryThat aptly is put on. Refrain tonight,And that shall lend a kind of easinessTo the next abstinence, the next more easy.”
In my final year of college I came to love Christ, who was the only way out of my sin and cynicism. Having encountered Christ through the Bible, in fellowship with people who had the audacity to live out a robust faith, and through the breath of the Holy Spirit in my life, I did create certain habits that changed me… well, forever. I began to read the Bible morning by morning and to pray. I trained my heart to see others through a wider lens and not from my own perspective, so that I saw them something as God does, cheering anything that is praiseworthy. Whether I felt like going or not, I went to church on Sunday mornings to worship with others. Thank You, God, for leading me to steady behavior in these ways.
And now I am asking God to help me trim the clutter of my life, both physical and mental, so I can continue to grow in virtue, forming new habits that cultivate goodness. I love to see godly character in my mentors, to see evidence of it in me, and to see it in my children.
To my dear and precious friends: Christ is expressed through your very lives and I am more alive because of your affection for me, and His through you. Truly, one of the richest gifts in this life is a good friend, and the more real we are through habitual obedience to Christ, the richer our fellowship is. The virtue of your lives encourages me to take bold steps in your company. Thanks.