When I was 19 years old, I crashed my parents brand new car. What made this accident worse was that even though my parents had been married for 35 years at that time this was the newest car they had ever owned and in one small moment I completely wrote it off. I also need to confess that the reason the accident occurred is because I was busy adjusting the radio.
Despite having a ton of reasons to be angry with me at the time what has stuck with me about that moment is the kindness, mercy and forgiveness shown to me by my dad. He never once grilled me about how I had come to be distracted enough to cause a 4-car pile-up. He never even asked for details. Instead, he checked that I was ok, quietly drove me home and set about managing insurance and repairs. In that moment, my dad's actions were virtuous. They displayed a love for me and ultimately his love for his own heavenly Father, God.
This year, together as a College, we are going to be grappling with the concept of virtue. Virtue is not a word that we use frequently these days, but it is nonetheless a very important concept when it comes to thinking about living a purposeful life and, many of you will know that alongside faith, wisdom and service, virtue sits at the heart of Building Purposeful Lives.
Here is how we are defining virtue to assist our young people in understanding this concept;
Virtue is about putting on attitudes, thinking patterns and actions that show love for God and love for others.
Virtue is about what happens in the heart (our attitudes), what happens in the mind (our thinking patterns) and what we do with our hands (our actions) that demonstrates our love for God and love others.
Jesus frequently spoke to crowds of people made up of people just like us about how to live a life that shows love for God and love for others. Each person sitting amongst those crowds was at a different point in their journey in terms of knowing God and His plan for their life but yet he spoke this one message about how to truly live a life that is purposeful.
In His messages to the crowds Jesus spoke about virtues such justice, mercy, humility, courage, compassion, and kindness. At the time Jesus message was countercultural because essentially it was about living a life not for yourself but for others. Still today that message is challenging because we are often told about the secret to a fulfilling life is to live for yourself and that message is simply just not true. We were made to live in relationship with God and relationship with others.
Each school morning when our young people get out of bed one of the first things they do is put on their uniform. Students wouldn't think about coming to school without it on. When you go to the gym you put on gym clothes. When you go to the beach you put on your swimmers and sunscreen and when you go to work you put on your work uniform.
Growing in virtue involves actively "putting on" attitudes, thinking patterns and actions. But the reality is that some virtues are going to feel more comfortable to wear than others. Just like the clothing in our wardrobes there are some virtues that you won't want to wear all the time and there will even be some virtues that you would never put on of your own free will, like that itchy, weird jumper that Nana knitted for you. That's because our hearts don't always want to do the things that lead to a life of hope and meaning. But here is the good news for each of us. Jesus offers first to change our hearts, to reorientate our hearts and clean our hearts so that "putting on" virtue, the things that bring us real meaning and fulfillment, becomes more and more like putting on your favorite pair of jeans.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12)