I was thinking about some events of this past year that involved ethical issues, and the question that we often asked: What is the moral thing to do? And I realized that that question is insufficient. A more complete question is: What would the moral person do?
One of the most influential classes I took in my philosophy graduate program was a course on virtue ethics and Aristotle. It was a paradigm shift in my thinking about ethics. It's important to do the right thing, but it's even more important to be the right kind of person. Our actions flow from the kind of persons we are, and our moral judgment improves as our character improves. Focusing on actions only can lead to legalism.
God is interested in us doing the right things, but I think he's
even more interested in us being the right kinds of people. Think
about some of the Psalms and Proverbs - they focus on the righteous
person, not just in terms of salvation, but in terms of the life they
I mentioned a few days ago an old verse of "Away In a Manger" we sang on Christmas Eve: "Fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there." We must be fit persons to live with God, that involves our character, not just our actions. Only through the Holy Spirit can we develop virtuous characters that fit us for eternity with God, and make us fit instruments for His Kingdom here on earth.
I hope the question that more readily springs to mind next year is: What would the virtuous person do? And then strive to become that kind of person with the help of the Holy Spirit.