So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13:13
In view of all virtues and virtuous things, the greatest is love and being loved. I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ Problem of Pain (Cf. chp. 3). In that section he provokes an unworldly way of viewing love juxtaposed to kindness. There is a difference between love and kindness. Love, true love, is not subjugate to the object of affection. Rather, true love desires, but more exactly, demands what is right. Therefore love proclaims an absolute goodness or truth for every individual. This love speaks for what is good and against what is evil. Kindness is quite the opposite, for it is subject to one’s self, or in the name of kindness one might dismiss judgment of good or evil actions–forfeiting praise or the possibility of forgiveness. Our Lord does not come in flesh with kindness, neither caring nor dismissing good and evil, but comes as true love, that we might become heirs to His love. This love is salvation unto life in God our Lord and love which in Christ by grace through faith we pour out upon our neighbors.
This is the virtue given to the Bride, the Church, from her Bridegroom Christ. The cross is certainly love being done on behalf of the Church. Jesus’ action of dying and rising is the highest form of love for not only the Church but the world over, for all times and places! If we can relegate this singular action of Christ to his sole purpose, then we can (and must) proclaim that he has indeed fulfilled his responsibility, vocation, to man. It is then that the Christian-narrative, or way of life, within a Christian community, is centered around receiving the action of Christ from Calvary and Resurrection. The acquisition of the virtue “love” is won at the cross and given in Word and Sacrament. Also, the Christian community remains accessible to Christ in prayer and praise, and from the gifts also come virtues such as peaceableness and patience for the neighbor.
Christian virtue is perhaps a method of reason, yet it is quite more, it is an expression of a regenerate spirit. Continually good virtues (habits) do come from a living community; these being a liturgical worship and a daily practicing of Christian life. However, these are not flowing from one’s own kindness, but are the good things received through faith. One can simply read Galatians 5:16ff. to see how the fruits of the Spirit are given that they might come from the one redeemed. Or in Philippians 4:8, 9, where Christian virtue is imitating others who received their virtue from Christ. Christ is the center of all virtue; in the means of grace, from the fruit of the Spirit, and as we imitate the faithful saints here or departed.
The whole glory for one’s virtue is in Christ, he works redemption and it is him who sent the Holy Spirit at Ascension that we might have a life of sanctification. Sanctification is sufficient to sustain the Church, because it is grounded in Christ—his cross and his victory—and is now ours today and forever!