Virtue’s testing point

From The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis:

Screwtape weighs his options:

Now this is a ticklish business. We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. The danger of inducing cowardice in our patients, therefore, is lest we produce real self-knowledge and self-loathing with consequent repentance and humility. And in fact, in the last war, thousands of humans, by discovering their own cowardice, discovered the whole moral world for the first time. In peace we can make many of them ignore good and evil entirely; in danger, the issue is forced upon them in a guise to which even we cannot blind them. There is here a cruel dilemma before us. If we promoted justice and charity among men, we should be playing directly into the Enemy’s hands; but if we guide them to the opposite behaviour, this sooner or later produces (for He permits it to produce) a war or a revolution, and the undisguisable issue of cowardice or courage awakes thousands of men from moral stupor.

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world — a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

Wars, rumors of wars, disease and pandemics, natural disasters…sounds like the worries of our world today. Add random senseless shootings and suicide bombers.

Praise God for those brave men and women of the armed forces who we remember especially today. And the everyday heroes that few of us hear about — but of whom God is intimately aware — who stand tall in the face of danger.

May God grant each of us renewed boldness and grace to stand tall, to unashamedly proclaim the Truth, to reach out to even the unlovely and reflect His love, recalling that we are actively engaged in warfare — spiritual warfare.

Times are dangerous. But I know my Defender, my Shield, my Protector. And armed with the Sword of Truth, in the full armor of God, I stand ready for His marching orders.


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