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Seven heavenly virtues
Seven heavenly virtues. Photo: Supplied

Revisiting seven heavenly virtues

What’s so bad about being good? Journey examines the traditional list of seven heavenly virtues, and how they might continue to guard our hearts from the perils of the contemporary age.


With almost 80 per cent of couples living together before marriage, this is one virtue that contemporary western Christians can find awkward. Let’s reclaim the virtue of the chaste heart which does not squander love: “The real killing of joy comes with the grabbing of pleasure. As with credit card usage, the price tag is hidden at the start, but the physical and emotional debt incurred will take a long time to pay off” (N.T. Wright).


This virtue is usually associated with the Temperance movement, which championed abstinence from alcohol. The original concept of moderation or restraint has fresh relevance for worship leaders addicted to PowerPoint and those who own selfie sticks. You know who you are.


This is not just about the benevolent act of giving alms. Caritas means both “charity” and “love”, and the explosion of public shaming on social media suggests that a more tolerant approach to human frailty is overdue. The universe is not interested in your
snippy comments.


Woody Allen reckons that 80 per cent of success in life is about showing up, but God holds us to a higher standard. Hebrews 6:11 (The Message) “And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet.”


“Please wait …” The irony in this age of instant gratification is our acquiescence in the face of updates on our phones and computers. In contrast, the slow food and handcrafted movements signal a real desire to slow down the pace of life. Romans 8:25 (RSV) reminds us that “… if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience”.


Could this be the most important virtue of all? Kindness is the practical expression of empathetic love. It smooths the way, uplifts the weary, and links us together as children of God. Jewel, in the lyrics of her hit song “Hands” sings, “In the end only kindness matters … We are God’s eyes, God’s hands, God’s heart”.


This virtue has had a bad rap since Charles Dickens created the obsequious Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. Yet the Christian concept of stripping away false pride and obsession with self in order to find grace still resonates. The servant king will always challenge the values of the world.

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