12 July 2011

How do you get respect?

Lady Virtue, Celsus Library, Ephesus
Whatever is true, says the apostle, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever tends toward love, whatever is commendable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, ponder such things.

This is a list of virtues. Now the thing about lists like this is that they were very common in the Roman world. Plato, who lived four hundred years before the apostle, wrote about the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and moderation. And his student, Aristotle, elaborated on those four with his own list of virtues.

The point here is that when Paul speaks about what is true, noble, just, pure and tending toward love, he is appealing to values that every Roman citizen would have wanted to be known for.

How do you become one of those people that everyone seems to regard with genuine respect? How do you move through life with such integrity that even when something catches you off guard, you naturally react with virtue? How do you live like Jesus, being the same person, in every moment, no matter what the situation?

Whatever is true: You fill your mind with truth, so that you become a lover of the truth, so that your character becomes more honest.

Whatever is noble: You fill your mind not with the low and vulgar thoughts that make up so much of our culture, but with noble thoughts, things that are high and lofty, things that make you want to walk with dignity.

Whatever is pure: You fill your mind with things that inspire you to treat women not with selfishness and lust, but with chivalry and virtue.

Whatever tends toward love: Even as you think about the people that you live with and work with, you do not dwell on the things about them that tend to lead you to anger, but on the things about them that tend toward love. Dwell on those things that give reason not for bitterness, but affection.

Do you want to become the kind of person who is spoken well of by all people? Then fill your mind with things that are spoken well of by all people.

Ponder such things. Be like Jesus, walking into the mountains by night, to be alone for prayer and meditation on the word of God. Be like Paul, bending all the powers of your God-given intellect (we all have one) toward the consideration of how the gospel should affect your daily life.

How?

Set aside a daily time: fifteen uninterrupted minutes. Give the first five minutes to prayer, just talking to God. Give the second five minutes to a careful reading of some brief passage of Scripture. Then give the last five minutes to quietly meditating on that passage, on what is excellent, on what is praiseworthy in what you have read. Fifteen minutes.

Enter this program of training, and take hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of you.

Listen to the podcast version of this post here.

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