For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith…with self-control…
2 Peter 1:5-6; NRSVue
There are few things more important than self-control, in fact we can say that’s it’s on the first level of needed virtues to make our way in faith in this world. To understand it within the Christian or “in Christ,” following Christ framework, we must never consider self-control on its own. As in the passage from 2 Peter above, it’s attached to faith, and in the end, love. Our consideration of self-control here is not about self-control by itself, though that surely has its place in the world. But considered within our faith, it becomes a life saving and we might even say life giving component.
We must exercise self-control in the midst of doubts and difficulties, even disappointments from happenings. Yes, no matter what the thought, self-control must prevail. Of course it’s not alone. Reading the passage above as a whole, that’s quite evident, just as we’ve already hinted:
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with excellence, and excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is blind, suffering from eye disease, forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
2 Peter 1:3-11; NRSVue
So this call for self-control like any other place in Scripture requires context. And when you consider our culture, just as much so. After all, self-control would be the epitome of the celebrated rugged individualist “can do” attitude which can overcome all odds. So says the narrative we’ve been raised on. But that’s not the self-control referred to here. It means the same, but in an entirely different context. We are self-controlled in and from our life in Christ, a life together in Christ’s body, and then in our own activities in the world. Again, entirely different.
This is vitally important for me. I have suffered with anxiety, a sense of not feeling well, glass half empty, however else you might describe it, syndrome for years. Maybe related to all the head injuries I’ve had starting as a boy. But whatever the case may be, this is especially important for me to keep in mind since so often in my life I’ve felt on edge. But really, for all of us, for everyone self-control is a necessary part of the whole package of virtues we’re to keep in mind and pursue day after day in our life in Christ.