We were created with a desire for God. Made in God’s own image, we all have a desire to be like Him, look like and behave like him, love and feel like Him. This is at the bottom of every human heart. We know this is what it takes to live well. Graham Tomlin writes, “What do you need to hold a difficult marriage together, to keep caring for disobedient and ungrateful children, to achieve something worthwhile and lasting in life? You need to learn love, patience, forgiveness, perseverance and faithfulness.” You need virtue, or what is more commonly referred to as Christian character. But a clear-eyed and honest look at ourselves sometimes reveals more vice than virtue, or at least more than we’d like to admit.
This fall we are going to look at virtue and vice. For the next few weeks we will consider the biblical call to virtue, to be a people of changed lives. And then we’ll look at the seven deadly sins (sometimes called “capital vices”), and how God redeems and transforms us.
We need transformation, not only because we were created for Christlikeness, but also because the world long for the hope of transformation, not to mention that it is the church’s calling to be a light to the nations, a community of a different kind of character. Tomlin touches on this aspect of our call to cultivate Christian virtue when he says, “If churches became known as places where you could learn how to love, to trust, to hope, to forgive, to gain wisdom for life, then they might begin to be attractive, perhaps even necessary places to belong to.”
If you would like to track with these series through some more thorough reading and learning on your own, I’d like to recommend four books, to which I am heavily indebted in my own growth and reflection, in preparation for this sermon series. They represent two theologians, one New Testament scholar, and a Christian philosopher.
Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and their Remedies
N. T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
Graham Tomlin, Spiritual Fitness: Christian Character in an Age of Consumerism
Graham Tomlin, The Seven Deadly Sins and How to Overcome Them