Which Way Then?
Living according to virtue.
We now come to the second of those “qualities” Peter lists as fundamental to the Christian faith. “Supplement your faith with virtue,” says the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:5. What does he mean?
There has been no small debate over the definition of virtue throughout human existence. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were arguing over its meaning far before the birth of Christ.
The Greeks understood virtue and excellence as synonymous terms. Indeed, most ESV translations will include a footnote next to the word “virtue” with this alternative translation. We could say being a virtuous athlete means performing excellently in competition. Being a virtuous person, then, means living excellently in all of life.
But while the standard of virtue was objective for the ancient Greeks, it had to be discovered through the application of reason to experiences. According to Aristotle, proper reasoning would lead one to understand virtue as a middle way, a path of moderation between extremes. For example, bravery in combat is the obviously virtuous option between cowardice and recklessness.
There is a lot about Aristotle’s moral reasoning that Christians should find unobjectionable, even commendable. But still, there is something Aristotle did not consider.
What if virtue was not only objective but also personal.
In the Gospels, the very God who ordered the cosmos according to his own moral law condescends to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He walked among this earth, socialized, taught, spoke, ate, slept, and worshiped. He lived a perfectly virtuous human life.
For Peter, writing to all those who call themselves disciples of Jesus Christ, to live virtuously is to live as he “who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Sometimes, it really is as simple as What Would Jesus Do?
Of course, personal experiences and contexts change. Jesus was never a husband or father, nor did he navigate the internet or participate in a democratic republic. Certainly, Jesus’ teachings and examples shed light on how Christians ought to live and behave in such circumstances. But knowing exactly what honors him will require a good bit of Christian prudence.
Still, there is great news that we are not wandering in the dark, left on our own to determine what is and is not virtuous. We have the example of a perfect Savior who not only goes before us but walks with us through the many challenges of life.
Robert Hasler is Director of Communications and co-host of The Will & Rob Show.