Last week my husband was reading The Picture of Dorian Gray — a book that neither of us had read before, though we assumed we knew what it was about. Turns out our preconceptions were a bit off, LOL. As he was reading, he would update me on what was going on in the story and the thoughts he had about it (those first chapters were just FULL of quotables!). And at one point, as the title character was drawn into the corrupt world of indulgence and hedonism by the point of view character, David said, “You know, Oscar Wilde makes it really understandable. Because vice looks so interesting. And virtue looks so boring.”
He likes to say these sorts of things to goad me, LOL.
Well, I was quick with a comeback this time: “No–imitation of virtue is boring. Real virtue is absolutely fascinating.”
I may have come up with it as an off-the-cuff retort, but it settled in my spirit. Because I think it’s so very true.
We’re living in a culture that was built on Christian ideals, and though said culture has shifted away from those values, they’re still present enough to be recognizable…but also to be undesirable by so many. Why? Because generally speaking virtues are pitched to us as a bunch of negatives: don’t drink, don’t curse, don’t overindulge, don’t be prideful, don’t be vain, don’t be selfish, don’t lie, don’t have sex, don’t party, don’t…don’t…don’t…
We all know what human nature says to a list of Don’ts though, right?
Here’s the thing, though. Virtue isn’t about what we don’t do. It’s about what we do. This is what I absolutely love about reading the Gospels–Jesus, too, lived in a society that was all about the Don’t. And He shook it up by focusing instead on the Do. Do good on the Sabbath. Go the extra mile. Give more than people demand. Love your enemy. Love your neighbor. Be born of the Spirit.
Real virtue looks like doing the illogical thing for love. Real virtue looks like crazy selflessness in order to demonstrate who Christ is. Real virtue looks like choosing the radical way instead of the fashionable way.
And that, my friends, is fascinating indeed. Christ didn’t have crowds of thousands following him because he was boring, or because of the things he didn’t do. He had people following him everywhere he went because of what he was doing. He was healing, casting our demons, making a feast out of a famine. He was challenging people to demand more of themselves, to go a step further, to not just ACT right (imitation) but to BE right (in their hearts).
Where are we just imitating the right actions today but not really meaning them? Where are we just saying the words without actually living them out? Where are we content with having a portrait of faith in our lives instead of a live-action version?
Following the rules for the sake of being a rule-follower doesn’t ever change the world. And isn’t really virtue. It’s just an imitation. A counterfeit.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have a counterfeit faith, an imitation of faith. I don’t want to face my Savior at the End and have him say, “But what did you do? Who among the outcasts did you love? Who saw Me through you?” I don’t want people to look at me, wrinkle their nose, and say, “Man, being a Christian looks boring.”
Being a Christian should be edge-of-your-seat excitement. Because it should mean going where others are afraid to go, doing what most people would never do, living on faith instead of “security.” Being a Christian should be completely fascinating to those who aren’t (yet). If instead they’re looking at us and calling us boring…maybe we’re doing it wrong. Maybe we’re not really living out the true virtues of Christ…maybe we’re just a faded imitation.
Where do we need God to breathe some life into our faith today?