“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Col. 3:14
All virtues are not really virtuous unless they are grounded in charity. Love is what “binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Some people may actually appear rather virtuous, yet are very proud of their virtue, not realizing pride and virtue don’t go together very well. One simply cannot have both pride and virtue. These two qualities are mutually exclusive. They cancel each other out.
We can exhibit virtuous qualities, yet if our being virtuous ever becomes our self-perception and all consummate pre-occupation, it will be all for naught. We are still firmly controlled and manipulated by the evil one.
Above all else, the essence of all virtues is self-forgetfulness. One can be virtuous unaware.
The key to achieving this is to “put on” love. By nature, human love is self-centered, centering on the needs of the love, not the beloved. This is the kind of thought we are very afraid to entertain. The more we look into the meaning of love, the more we are exposed, for we all fall very short as far as true love is concerned.
To put on love is to put on Christ.
We all are very familiar with the difference between being something and doing something, aren’t we? Doing something does not cause us to become something and being loving is generated from the inside, not from without. We can become virtuous for a while through sheer effort, but we will be exposed when things get tough and our patience is challenged.
Putting on Christ is a daily practice, and it’s a moment by moment kind of thing. Our love for Christ and for our neighbors must constantly be updated and renewed, lest it become stale and decayed. To be transformed and renewed is so much akin to death and resurrection, for to truly love is to experience death because to love is to deny oneself. Unless we are dead to ourselves, our love expressed in any form will be full of self.
Instead of spending our entire lifetime cultivating all sorts of virtues, we must learn to put first things first, otherwise all we will be achieving will be only bits and pieces, scattered everywhere, and eventually “things will fall apart and the center cannot hold.”
All human virtues must be centered on the love of Christ, which is the unifying force of all human goodness.