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Tugend und Geist

Read: Galatians 6

When it comes to being virtuous, is this something that God does in and to you or is it something that you achieve through your commitment to certain practices?

This is a very important question for Christians.

In the epistle of Galatians we find some very good teaching about how both human agency and divine intervention are involved in bearing the ‘fruits’ of virtue. On the one hand, it is the responsibility of the follower of Christ to “not indulge,” to “watch out,” to “walk by the Spirit,” and to govern the “conflict” between competing desires. On the other hand, it is the work of the Spirit to “lead us,” “shape our desires,” and give us the ability to bear virtuous fruit  (can you find these expressions in Galatians Gal 5:17, 18, 22–25)?

As the interplay between  you and the Spirit occurs, the desires of the Spirit influence your own desires in such a way that the desires of the flesh, which once came naturally to you, are replaced by a Spirit-driven desire for virtue. Through these new, Spirit-infused desires, the fruit of the Spirit comes “naturally.”  So the Spirit comes alongside your efforts and supernaturally shapes your desires, enabling you to enjoy virtue and helping you become “naturally” virtuous.

So what do our efforts look like? In Galatians 6 we find what might be considered an on outline on how to ‘live by the Spirit’. This chapter is extremely practical and reveals an eight-fold process in shaping character.  Here are the eight elements in this process.

  1. gentle restoration
  2. carrying each other’s burdens
  3. having teachers of integrity
  4. testing actions through self-assessment
  5. finding legitimate pride in the achievement of good character
  6. staying away from comparative assessment with others
  7. receiving instruction by word
  8. having a specific focus on communities of believers

Can you match this list with the verses in Galatians 6? Can you see parallels between this list and the four stages in the virtue education project of this site?

A prayer:  My commitment Lord is to not indulge in vice, to be on the watch for vice in my life, to walk by the Spirit in a commitment to virtue and to govern the conflicts between my competing desires. At the same time, I ask that your Spirit lead me, shape my desires and give my the ability to bear virtuous fruit.

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