Christian Counseling: Virtuous Living

"I lay it down as a sacred maxim, that every man is wretched in proportion to his vices; and affirm that the noblest ornament of a young, generous mind and the surest source of pleasure, profit, and reputation, in life, is an unreserved acceptance of virtue." (Author unknown)

Some of what were once considered to be vices have slowly become a part of mainstream, acceptable American behavior, even for some who identify themselves as Christians, such as: drinking alcohol, going to a bar, sex outside of marriage, card playing, attending R-rated movies, couples living together, and having babies out of wedlock. Some refer to these new found acceptable behaviors as a liberation from the tyranny of outdated, conservative Christian rule, while others see it as a deterioration of values. What do you say?

In the past, many of these were labeled as vices and some claimed the determination was based on the Bible. However, more than a handful of leaders and most of their followers failed to differentiate between laws, tradition and personal preferences. With those in mind, are the above behaviors only to be regarded as vices?

Further still; consider the following. The Bible says getting drunk is wrong, not drinking itself. And what kind of card playing are we referring to—Go Fish or high stakes poker with an addictive player? Sex outside of marriage? It isn’t in God’s plan, except perhaps masturbation, which, for all intents and purposes, the Bible avoids. (Theologically, an obvious omission of an important subject is considered important.) R-rated movies? That’s up to the individual, although one could make a case for avoiding nudity and coarse language. Finally, Scripture does not support couples living together or having children out of wedlock. For the most part, those two behaviors have been given birth by late twentieth century, social influence.

Virtue, as conformity to a standard of right, is a matter of knowing the Bible and using good judgment. So often I find people get confused between Scriptural law, traditions (what is held to be of value, but not acceptable or mandated by God) and personal preferences (the voice of one’s conscience). How can a person make clear as possible those distinctions in order to live virtuously? 

First do your utmost to determine the spirit behind Biblical laws and live them the best you can, and be tempered in living by the law by remembering we are under grace. Second, if an issue is unclear or not discussed in the Bible then listen to your conscience. Permit me a word of caution. The conscience can be overly developed (too many rules, have to's and shoulds leading to guilt-riddenness) or under developed (too few laws to govern one's life properly). One's conscience needs to be part of the transformation process we read about in Romans 12:2.  Studying and living by the Bible and developing one's conscience, while considering the wisdom or beliefs of others and securing their support, are at the top of the list of the best things we can do to ensure a virtuous life.

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