Yesterday the Orthodox Church remembered the beheading of John the Baptist. Jesus testified that John was the greatest of all men. He had a simple message that could be summed up: return to God and He will return to you. He heralded the coming of the Messiah. And we know from scripture that John’s way of life was walking on the path of virtue. He was pure and spoke up for the truth. His rebuke of King Herod living as man and wife with his brother’s wife got John thrown into prison. Herod was basically the exact opposite of John the Baptist. Herod was titillated by a young woman dancing and promised her up to half his kingdom. She turned the party into a bloody banquet by asking for John’s head on a platter. Even when faced with an obvious injustice Herod won’t stand up for the right thing. He viciously slouched his way to murder by granting her request.
John’s way of salvation was living a virtuous life. What are the virtues? I found a short list of seven from the little red prayer book I use.
- Humility – having a modest opinion of oneself; the willingness to be obedient to the will of God, regardless of personal cost
- Liberality – the quality of being generous in giving our time, our talent, and our treasure
- Chastity – The condition or quality of being pure. It is about virginity of heart, mind, soul and strength.
- Mildness – gentle, kind in disposition, not extreme
- Temperance – moderation and self-restraint
- Diligence – paying proper attention to a task; giving the degree of care required in a given situation
- Happiness – being well adapted, able to show joy, take pleasure in life as it has been given
Happiness is the virtue that caught me off guard. I did not even know that happiness was a virtue.
I can remember the speech my father-in-law, Phil, gave at our wedding rehearsal over 20 years ago. His wish for us was that we would always be happy. My bride and I were young but we thought ourselves wise enough to know that we would face many trials and difficulties and that would mean that we would not always be happy. But it dawned on me yesterday, during the preaching of my sermon on John the Baptist, that maybe my father-in-law was on to something. In hoping for our happiness, far from being misguided, he was asking that we might attain to the height of virtue.
Up Next Blog: Godly Happiness versus Worldly Happiness