I don’t know if it’s an epidemic in the American church. I don’t know if it has to do with our culture, but I do know that there is something that a lot of us struggle with, including myself, when it comes to living as a follower of Christ. We wrestle with the thought that we’re just not doing enough or that we’re just not good enough. We’re trying really hard and we could just do better then we’d be better Christians. The fact of the matter is, however, that our live of following Christ is not primarily about doing good things, it’s about being formed into a good person.
Ultimately, what I’m talking about here is the idea of virtuous living versus living a life where we haphazardly attempt good deeds. Following Jesus is about a change of heart, a formation into the likeness of Jesus. To be a person of virtue means that we have been changed (and are being changed) on the inside not just the outside. C.S. Lewis describes it this way in Christianity, Lewis writes,
There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man. Someone who is not a good tennis player may now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is the man whose eye and muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumerable good shots that they can now be relied on. They have a certain tone or quality which is there even when he is not playing, just as a mathematician’s mind has a certain habit and outlook which is there even when he is not doing mathematics. In the same way a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is that quality rather than the particular actions which we mean when we talk of “virtue.”
The life of a disciple of Jesus should be marked by virtuous living. We are not just people called out to do good deeds on occasion, we are called to be changed and molded into the image of Christ. Christianity is not simply behavioral modification. It is the Holy Spirit working in and through us so that we can have a heart like Jesus instead of just the actions of Jesus. It is tempting to think that one can become a person defined by love by doing loving things, but that is very hard if you don’t change your character first. And to be completely honest, there’s only one way to have your character changed and that’s through the work of Jesus in your life. Trying to become virtuous through our own actions isn’t possible because of our sinful nature, we have to allow our lives to be transformed by Jesus through the Holy Spirit.