Is it dangerous to think too much about Christian virtue? In giving our attention to our personal growth in love, patience, humility or Christ-likeness, do we undermine the very attributes in which we seek to excel? In chapter 14, it seems that Screwtape would like “the patient” to occupy himself with this conundrum.
Chapter 14 can be downloaded here:
Screwtape’s schemes to undo “the patient” give us a helpful insight into the nature of Christian virtue. The true end of virtue, and humility in particular, is that we turn our attention towards God and towards others. This happens as, instead of becoming more self-centred, we become increasingly other-person-centred. Love, the supreme virtue, leads us to value and celebrate ‘the other’ without false piety or pretended humility. Instead of self-loathing, we become self-forgetful– not devaluing ourself or the great worth that God has bestowed upon each of us. In this way, we still glorify God through the excellence of our endeavours but stay far away from pride.
So, Paul writes to the Colossians:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.Colossians 3:12-14