Spiritual health should be top priority
The seven heavenly virtues — chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility — are considered to be the most important spiritual characteristics all Christians should aspire to embody. Whether they choose to enter the priesthood, become a nun or live in physical isolation ensuring their spiritual health should be top priority. But people do not have to be so extreme in their spirituality. As long as they are devoted to God and His ways and consistently build a strong relationship with Him, they will be able to exhibit the seven virtues in their everyday life — even in the face of worldly temptations without wavering.
One of the hardest virtues to live by is the second one — temperance, according to Father Kirkland Russell, priest-in-charge of St. John’s Anglican church in Harbour Island, Eleuthera. This virtue which encourages the practice of self-control is one the priest believes not enough people practice as they should. He says it has caused many people to become a slave to their emotions which is not the way God wanted His children to live their lives.
“Temperance is the ability to exhibit self-control. It is being able to be rational and not just act any old way just because something has happened — be it bad or good. It is given through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with it you are able to be unaffected by things that tempt you. You do not act impulsively and be like Nike and ‘just do it’. You don’t even just go with the flow. When you have temperance you understand fully the consequences of your actions which in turn allows you to make good decisions,” says Fr. Russell.
He says it’s a good virtue to have in your life because it helps people to practice delayed gratification when it comes to things they cannot afford, and wisely choose to wait until a more opportune time. Even though most people understand the importance of self control, he says many still choose not to practice it as much as they should today.
“This is not to say that there are no people who still practice temperance, but it’s more to say that many people just make bad choices because they are using their heart to make up their minds about what is good and necessary to do or to have. In the face of temptation, you must use your mind and your soul to guide you and if you are being led by God you should have no problem facing spiritual challenges.”
The priest says too many people put themselves under financial pressure because they just cannot say no or try to attain something later when they have the money.
The fact that most Bahamians have been reported in recent years to have less than $1,000 on their savings accounts is a testament to how little temperance the general public has in the financial aspect of their lives says Reverend Emmett Weir, senior pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
“Temperance is not something that will come easily. It is granted to us through the grace of God. And it is only through Him that we can be successful in the practice of temperance or any of the other virtues. At the Lutheran Church we strongly believe that nothing in life comes from your own strength — but from God’s grace which will lead you in doing what is right within His sight. Once you have a relationship with God, this spiritual trait should come a lot more easily.”
Contrary to belief, temperance, although similar to chastity, is quite different. The minister says exhibiting temperance is not to abstain entirely from the pleasures or necessities of life, but rather to exercise control, as too much of anything is not good for a person.
He says the consistently rising percentages of the population that have lifestyle diseases like high-blood pressure, diabetes and obesity is a testament to persons being unable to control their eating habits. Reverend Weir believes that people of the nation should practice temperance more often not only for the sake of their spiritual well-being but also for health and wellness reasons.
“I do not think we as a people practice temperance enough in our lives. There are some that do, but for others just being able to do what they want when they want is too valuable to them,” says the minister. “I strongly believe that if we practiced temperance more we’d be a healthier, wealthier and more spiritual people.”
Temperance is a Christian character expected to be practiced by all Christians says Pastor Harrison Butler, minister at St. John’s Native Baptist church in Grand Bahama. He says it is a gift from God that many Christians do not appreciate as much as they should. While he says it is more understandable for non-Christians to practice this virtue there should be no excuse for true Christians. The pastor says it is the purpose of church to teach non-believers about the true values of the seven virtues of the spirit not only in word but in their everyday actions.
“Practicing self control in our hedonistic society is a hard thing to do, but with God all things are possible. I believe that the root of the problems our society faces today can be found in a lack of self control,” says Butler. “Unfortunately, although many people try to be conscious of their practices, society does not make it easy. Teachers cannot discipline children when they do wrong and do not practice good control. Parents don’t speak to their children or raise them the way they used to, and it is common to see the consequences of someone losing their self-control and brutally killing other people. This has to stop.”
He says the new generation needs to be challenged to a life of moral excellence, and that it begins first with reverence to God which will bring about temperance or self-control for the social well-being of the country.
Pastor Butler says people cannot expect to receive the gifts of God if they don’t abide by His rules. He says His gifts are precious and they were given to make people’s lives better.
“God may not have left the instruction manual on why things were important to do as He says, but from biblical evidence it is clear there is a reason for everything God says and creates. Do not assume you know what is best. God gave us the fruits of spirit so that we may be rich in our souls and be able to look with new eyes on His creation. Being able to follow His instructions and be creative in the smallest of things will prepare you for greater rewards. When you follow the virtues you are putting yourself in a good position to receive God’s grace and mercy,” says Pastor Butler.
Over the next five weeks, The Nassau Guardian will engage a number of ministers of religion on the topic of the Seven Heavenly Virtues. They will dissect each one and talk about relevance of the virtues to the twenty-first century society.