This is my contribution to Cindy’s Book Club on Roots of American Order.
[Christianity’s] principles demanded a new sort of heroism, more severe than that of the Law of the Jews, more sacrificing of self than the old Roman virtue. Out of this teaching there would rise what were to be called the Christian “theological virtues” of faith, hope, and charity.
To have faith is to respond morally, through an act of will, to God’s love and wisdom: to trust.
To have faith in our home order is to submit to Providence and trust that God is working in us and through our circumstances, for our good, for our sanctification. It is to accept and believe and arrange our lives under Christ.
To have hope is to rejoice in the reality of the Lord, patient and confident.
To have hope in our home order is to not expect perfection, but to yet pursue godliness, confident and patient in God’s timing and processes — that is, in troubles of all sorts.
Today my troubles included a pound of shredded cheese tossed about by a toddler, a toddler who spent “quiet time” climbing out of bed, a child who wept bitterly about having to fill in a map of the Caribbean rather than Canada, a desk that is quite out of order, a lost Latin book, and my own fatigue and irritability. Are even these from God’s hand? Indeed. These are, as Rachel Jankovic put it in Loving the Little Years, a “Fruit of the Spirit Speed Quiz.” And, boy, is my score bad today.
As the Heidelberg puts it, “all things, in fact, come to us, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.” So God keeps sending the quizzes, so that through them, eventually, we will develop steadfastness.
To have charity is to fulfill the Great Commandment, in act and in spirit, love God and loving all men.
To have love in our home order is to not grasp for honor or praise, but to put God first and to put others before ourselves.
Becoming God’s Utopia
As Paul describes it, sin is man’s vaingloriousness: man’s ignoring of God, man’s presumption, man’s failure to become what God means man to be — we may almost say, man’s refusal to become God’s Utopia.
Are we attempting to create our own little ideal utopias? The endeavor always ends in a fall, in despair, in frustration, because that’s what God does to pride.
However, we are called to become God’s Utopia. That’s God’s design, to make us the perfected Bride of Christ, without spot or blemish. We can’t do it through our efforts, but God is working in us and through us, changing us, growing us, and in the end, His purpose will succeed, even if it doesn’t seem like it now. Hope.
No man is worthy of God’s grace, yet God extends that grace. To have faith in Christ is to obey Christ — to endeavor to walk in his steps.
Sanctification being God’s work does not mean that we don’t work. “If you love Me, obey My commandments,” said Christ. But we can only walk in his steps if we are enabled and strengthened in the Holy Spirit.
What Platonism could not provide, Christian belief did: an incarnate model of the way that man should live, and a mode of participating in the life eternal.
Christ became man, that He might obey and suffer in our nature. It is His obedience that we claim, not our own, so that we stand guiltless before our Father. Christ is the first fruits, and we are to be Christians: little Christs, members of Christ, anointed to confess His name, become a living sacrifice of thanks, to strive against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity (Heidelberg Q&A 32).
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15)
For men, their acts must have significance. […] They must have purpose in their existence. And what is that purpose? Why, to glorify God, to know Him and enjoy Him forever.
Do not only we ourselves, but our children also, understand their purpose? Do they work with a significance, a purpose? Or is their purpose to escape the wrath of Mom? How can we help them see their mission, their significance, and their purpose as something eternally worthwhile, while they are still young?