Showing Our Virtue

  I hope all parents and non-parents were able to read the last post, here.  It has great thoughts on how we interpret interruptions in our life.  

  As a companion to those thoughts, I offer this today:  

   One of the things that marks our current culture is a cynicism towards institutions and power structures.  There's an inherent distrust in "conventional wisdom" and a skepticism towards "experts" of any kind.  The history of that shift would take too long to discuss, but nevertheless, here we are.  We see it in differing opinions on food, vaccinations, parenting styles, financial decisions, and church structures.  We see it in sports, media, arts, and government.  

  There is a lot of "good" in this, as power can often lead to corruption, which we've seen over and over as a culture.   It is good that certain name brands, certain powerful families, and certain institutions are not just assumed to be trustworthy.  Discernment is good.  

  There is also a lot of "bad" that has come with it.  Again, not enough time to look in detail at all of the consequences. . . . but, one negative outcome of our cynicism is the effect it has on all of us, personally.   We've lost most of our conventional ways to prove our moral worth (which is, in many ways, good), like being associated with a certain business, school, or civic organization. Those things don't bring automatic feelings of "that's a good person, right there!" like they used to.  But, here's the "bad"; because of that, we're all out trying to "show our virtue" and "prove our moral worth" in a million different, individual ways.  These attempts at self-justification rob us of community and hurt our relationships, since you can't care for someone whom you're trying to impress.  Look at this paragraph from Jennifer Senior:  

    " Back in the 1980s, the psychologist Jerome Kagan presciently noticed that something was happening to American parents: Absent having any other conspicuous way to prove moral worth — by taking care of their own parents, say, or heading up local civic organizations — we instead try to show our virtue through parenting. . . . . "

Well, if that isn't the truest quote I've ever read. . . . .  I'd encourage all parents (especially) and non-parents to read the whole thing.  It's a very insightful look at our attempts at self-justification.  

The Gospel shows us that we can abandon all self-salvation projects, and "virtue showings" because our approval is grounded in Christ, not what others think of us, or in which powerful people we're connected to (which doesn't work as much anymore).  The Apostle Paul says we need to repent and even cast down our virtues to know Christ and boast of his righteousness for us, rather than our righteousness before others.   Let the words of the Gospel wash over your attempts at self-justification before others.  There's great comfort and freedom in what God says to us here:  

Philippians 3:7-9

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—