Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Control Thyself

Self-control is good. It is one of the things God requires of us (Proverbs 25:28; 2 Peter 1:6; 2 Timothy 3:3). But it can become distorted. We cannot simply follow every impulse that presents itself to us (Colossians 3:8-10; Jude 4, James 1:14,15). And this is something something we need to remind ourselves of in a culture where pursuit of pleasure is fast becoming the central focus of life. But while self-control clearly is a Biblical virtue, it is not the chief or only virtue. However, there are some ethical systems that take self-control as the primary requirement. This can become self-control for the sake of self-control, which is not what God demands (Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-6; Philippians 4:4). This results in a harsh, unfeeling morality, centered on the things we do not do. Rather, the chief Christian virtue is love (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3), which results in putting others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3,4; Galatians 5:13,14; Romans 12:9-21). Now if we are going put others first, we need to be willing to restrain our own impulses. But it is a restraint with the purpose to leave room for love. Self-control is sort of like bug spray. We need to use it to deal with some of the uglier aspects of our personality, so they do not get out and cause havoc. But if we make the focus of our life looking for more and smaller bugs to spray, we have lost perspective. So we need to have self-control, but we need to keep it in its appropriate place.

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