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People are like a bag of apples. In most bags, even if they are the same variety, there will be delicious apples, maybe most will be like this. There may be few apples that are a little bruised from the rough trip in from the orchard, or from mishandling by a careless shopper. Some may even taste a little funny, on account of being unripe or pithy. There may even be one or two that are downright rotten—right to the core. All found in the same bag.

With the exception of youngsters who are, for the most part, untarnished by the orchard or the people tending it—at least for a while, in most groups of people there will be an assortment of pleasant, bruised, pithy, unripe, overripe, and downright rotten individuals. Like the apples in the bag, people all look pretty much the same, the smiles are similar, their various sizes and shapes and colors are comparable, the difference is in the heart. It is what’s on the inside that really matters.

“… The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

During a career stint that required occasionally hiring people, I always tried to dig a little deeper than the beautiful calligraphy on the diploma announcing competency in a particular field of study. Finishing what you started has value, but what you are made of, your character and virtue is much more valuable.

I was looking for signs of virtue—of faith, hope, knowledge, wisdom, honesty, humility, obedience, patience, courage, faithfulness, self-control, kindness, gratitude, and love—a few of the virtuous traits that should be cultivated in every life. Like the sun hitting your face on a crisp fall morning or the sweet crunch of the first bite of a tree-ripened apple, virtuous lives are refreshing. Virtuous people are the ones others gravitate toward because they are strong and safe, they welcome, support, and uphold, they are full of love.

Those were the kind of people I wanted working for me. You don’t find these things on a transcript, virtue is found between the lines, hidden in the mundane, and most apparent in the little things of life.

Tilled into the rich earth of the soul, virtue helps form a person into the leader, parent, spouse, employee, soldier, doctor, friend, or pastor that others want to be around. Follow. Emulate.

These traits are not particularly Christian. You don’t have to be a Christian to be virtuous. The virtues should be sought by all people because they are true. They are truth, light, and life. They are the building blocks of morality and ethics. As such, they are desirable among all people to help create a reasonable, prosperous culture and society. Because of this, each person should know the virtues and pursue them intently, personally, honestly. They should be taught in school and practiced at home where they are encouraged and tended like a summer garden.

For the person who is spiritually sensitive and watchful, cultivating virtue points, in every way, to Jesus Christ, who Himself, is the way, the truth, and the life—the light and glory of God. Even as the virtues are true, they each connect, inextricably, to Jesus, because He is the Truth. In a real sense, then, pursuing virtue is pursuing Jesus, building into our hearts and minds the same qualities of true personhood that He displayed on earth.

In this way, your life on earth will be like Christ, true and good, and you will reflect the beauty of God to the world. Like a breath of fresh air, your virtuous life will be a blessing to your family, and an orchard of good fruit for your neighbor.