Aloha Friday Message – February 12, 2016 – Lenten Series, #1

1607AFC021216 – 2016 Lenten Series, #1

Read it online here, please.

Proverbs 6:16-19 16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that hurry to run to evil,
19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
    and one who sows discord in a family.

Romans 1:18-25 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Peace be with you, Belovéd. This year during Lent we take up a series on a topic that will frankly make some people angry. It’s a topic that used to be stock trade in many denominations. Some called it “hellfire and brimstone.” Some referred to it as instilling guilt in the hope of feeling the conviction of sin and the promise of salvation. For this series, none of that applies. We will look at both sides of the coin called “Character.”

On one side of that coin is the image of all to which we aspire – goodness, virtue, integrity, honest, morality, and righteousness. These are things that are hardwired in our being because we are created in the image and likeness of God. One the other side of that coin is the image of what we deplore but cannot ignore. These are things that interfere with that hardwired spirit given to us at conception. Yes, we are talking about virtue, to which we have the desire to attain, and sin, that which we hope to which we need the will to abstain.

This series will present brief profiles of virtues and vices and the conduct associate with them. Why talk about this at all? I must say that it is because we so rarely talk about sin and virtue. We excuse every sort of failure of character by using moral relativism; we reject moral absolutism, and substitute what please us to understand about choices between good and evil. We will use a set of virtues and vices that have historically been used for millennia in one form or another. Let’s begin this series by looking at a chart that depicts The 7 Deadly Sins and Their Corresponding Virtues.

This chart is based on many analyses of Christian scholars who looked for a way to present information on their understanding of the nature and severity of these sins. One3 common way to present them is by using the mnemonic “PEGSLAW.” That is the basis for this table:

 

The 7 Deadly Sins and Their Corresponding Virtues
P Pride Humility
E Envy Kindness
G Gluttony Temperance
S Sloth1 Diligence
L Lust2 Chastity
A Avarice3 Charity
W Wrath Patience
1Acedia, Apathy
2Covetousness, Concupiscence
3Greed, Cupidity

 

At the outset, let me say that this isn’t “just a Catholic Traditional view of Sin and Virtue.” Look back at the quote from Proverbs, and you can see that grouping negative character flaws goes way back. It is the same for the Gifts of the Spirit. Check out this link to Isaiah 11:2-3, and you will see the roots of what Paul used to list the Gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. See Paul’s list there. A second consideration is that this series is intended to be informational, not judgmental. If some certain behavior is “classified” under such-and-such a sin or virtue, that statement is made on the basis of historical and traditional scholarship which is often (probably always) contradictory to what modern humanists advocate. I concur with the Secular Humanist point of view that it is possible to be good – virtuous – without being overtly religious. Where we part ways is in the discerning of the source of that goodness. They maintain it arises from within the human disposition. Again, I concur, but also insist that in is placed within the human disposition by the Creator and so it is also our disposition to know and worship the Creator and not just the creation:

Romans 1:18-25 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

That’s enough preamble. I will include the chart in each post in this series, and it will be supported by other charts or graphics as we go along. Let us begin then with the first and greatest sin, the one that brought down the exceedingly beautiful and powerful angel we know as Lucifer or another familiar name – Satan: Pride.

Pride – hubris (ὕβρις) – is the personal conviction that one is better than anyone else. The prideful person can do more things, better things, and expects to be admired by others as much as s/he admires himself/herself. It is a perversion of love and a lack of humility. Pride often feigns humility with the intent of gaining more praise. Pride leads to hatred and contempt of others, and in its worst form makes the proud person indifferent to everyone – even those whose obsequious behaviors feed that pride. Prideful people are preoccupied with themselves, their life, their possessions, their abilities, their appearance; everything is me, me, me. Take a look at Isaiah 14:12-15 to see what brought down an angel of God. Then consider how often Israel was referred to as a “stiff-necked people.” Make an image in you mid of a prideful person, and you will see their neck stiff, eyes haughty, nose up as if it would kill them to have to look down at the rest of us. Pride excludes everyone and everything, is jealous of all that is good, and loves all that confirms one’s self – including in particular evil. For the prideful only they and what they do is superbly superior. Pride is conquered by humility.

Humility is the recognition that one is imperfect and, because of this, lowers her/his view of himself/herself in comparison to others. This kind of meekness is characterized by the world as being overly modest, timid, submissive, weak, tepid, or just plain stupid. The humble person is aware that any and all goodness, good things, good qualities, and good actions arise from divine Grace rather than personal effort. It is the product of love – a threefold love that balances one’s disposition to the divine, to self, and to others in ways that seek to mend rather than sunder, to include rather than exclude, and to accept rather than reject. David described the happy – Blesséd – person in the very first verse of Psalms:
Psalm 1:1 Happy are those
    who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
    or sit in the seat of scoffers;

Like all Virtues, humility is a strongly-held, continuously exercise one’s disposition to do good things for God, for self, and for others. Humility is, in a way, a masterful blend of the Four Cardinal Virtues – Prudence, Justice, Fortitude,  and Temperance. Humility give us the power to be a statesman rather than a politician, a servant rather than a ruler, and a child of God rather than a spawn of evil. Humility is the form of Love Jesus showed by coming to us as an infant – helpless, impoverished, homeless, and yet mightiest of the Mighty.

As pride is our greatest failing, so also humility is our greatest strength.

Next week we will look at another very difficult pair: Envy and Kindness.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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