The subject of character is absolutely essential. However, when it comes to discussing the topic there are many ideas. Often character is referred to as a set of morals and beliefs that define how we treat or behave with others and ourselves. Others would suggest that every person is born with a certain kind of character, because of inheritance or due to their nationality. Others would say that character must be learned and developed. Nevertheless, I would disagree. Character is not a set of moral codes or beliefs nor is it something we can teach. Character Is NOT Taught, It Is Caught! In suggesting such, we should, ask the question, What Kind of Character Are You? That should spark your interests!
Our culture and religion have long promoted character development as foundational to the strength of our society.
An unknown author wrote. “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
Another unknown author penned these words, “Everyone tries to define this thing called Character. It’s not hard. Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”
These statements are very true, but the question must be asked, how is this kind of integrity or character realized? Americans have believed that education is the key. This is illustrated through programs like “Character Counts.” or “Character First.” These programs promote the development of what they would suggest are key aspects of character, character qualities, such as, moral character, the qualities that help us be our best self. Performance Character, the qualities that help us do our best work. Intellectual Character, the skills and traits needed to be a motivated and committed learner, critical thinker, and creative problem solver. Civic Character, the skills and traits needed to be an ethical, engaged citizen. They talk about how character is developed by the way we deal with the difficulties of life and how we may develop into better people.
No one would argue that these character traits and the development of such is a good thing. But the “how of a thing” is especially important. How do we get there? Is the answer simply education? Can we really teach character? Did you notice that the emphasis is squarely on what we do, we must develop character? It smacks of performance and reinforces the humanistic lie of man being an independent self.
It reminds me of what the serpent said to Adam and Eve, “The serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The old serpent has been deceiving people ever since, that they can by their own best efforts be like God, developing good character.
Character is related to our spiritual condition and not human performance. When considering character and “its development,” we must consider the source. We might say, “What kind of character are you?” Implying that your character expression is derived from a spiritual source. It reveals something about who you are. Whose character are you expressing? You do not produce it; you allow for the expression of character through your choices. It is vitally important to understand that all character is derived. Knowing this will directly influence how we “teach character.” Character is NOT taught, it is Caught!
Character is the outflow and expression of the nature, or the spiritual personage of who we are. Character is drawing from the one/one who dwells within us. In other words, a person’s character is drawn from either God or Satan, those are the only alternatives of spiritual character.
This is a radical departure from the traditional understanding of character development. Scripture does not teach that character is developed by our own efforts. A man came to Jesus and referred to Him as “Good teacher…” Jesus responded, “No one is good except God alone” (Mk. 10:18). When we exhibit good character, it is derived from God. In III John verse 11 it states, “Anyone who does what is good, is of or “from” God.” John is saying that the Christian derives what he does “out of God.” We do not produce or develop the character of God – we derive it from God. Therefore, scripture refers to the character of God as a fruit. It is God’s fruit, you simply “bear” it, you do not produce it. The “fruit of the Spirit is… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:23).
God’s good character is the character of LOVE. “God is love” we are told in I Jn. 4:8,16). The “fruit of the Spirit” begins with love and is the expression of His character. The divine character of agape LOVE always reaches out to others and gives itself to others. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
This understanding of character gives a whole new appreciation to the meaning of character and changes our focus.
Our focus shifts from ourselves to God, from what we can do – to God, from what He has done and wants to continue to do through us, and often causes us to worship Him.
The Christian is always responsible for his choices. It would be accurate to say, that every choice is a character expression. The entirety of the Christian life is Christ and allowing Christ to manifest His all-glorious character through us. God’s will for the Christian is always Jesus Christ and His life (character) lived out in and through our behavior to the glory of God!
With this new mind-set, one may ask, how does a person experience character as God desires? If the whole of the Christian life is Christ, then, God’s ultimate purpose for man can only be accomplished by God Himself working in us. We were “created for God’s glory” (Isa. 43:7), and we are to “do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31). The only way we may experience the character of God is to experience God Himself. It is not by imitation but by participation! We have been looking to the wrong person to experience Godly character, ourselves. God’s purpose was fulfilled in Jesus at the cross, as He provided for us, to became Christian and to live Christian. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” If so, how are we to glorify God? The “how” of a thing is of most importance. How is a person to glorify God? What can we do?
A proper understanding of Christian character is that we can do nothing! It is not what we do but what He has done and wants to continue to do in and though us that glorifies God. So, if the chief end of man is to glorify God, then we must ask, how? And I would suggest that scripture declares that only God is capable of glorifying God. God is only glorified by what God does.
It has been said, that “only God can produce the Godliness that glorifies God” (Jim Fowler).
“Godliness is always a result of God at work” (Steve Pettit).
“Godliness is only a result of what God does” (Major Ian Thomas).
This is “character” defined: God is only glorified when His all-glorious character is manifested within the Christian. It takes God to glorify Himself, not by our best efforts to please and appease Him. With this understanding we begin to see that our best effects are an offense to God. God said to the prophet Isaiah, “I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 42:8). “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another” (Isa. 48:11). Isaiah 64:6 reminds us of what our best efforts look like before God. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags, we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
This certainly puts character into a proper perspective. It truly is more “caught than taught” as you say. By this understanding it would seem that proper character expression comes down to a choice. The Christian and only a Christian may choose to allow for the all-glorious character of God to be expressed through his behavior, because only a Christian has the indwelling presence of Christ. All character is derived, either from God or Satan. It is not simply taught, but “caught” or participated with. Character derived from God is Godly, and character derived from Satan is sinful.
Man does not produce character but expresses it because he is not an independent self. If our Christian lives are not manifesting the character of Christ, it is not Christian character but Satan’s. Our choices matter and have consequences. As we walk by faith, we allow for the character of Christ to be manifest through us. Everything that is not of faith is sin (Romans14:3). It might be appropriate to end this discussion with a question? What kind of Character Are You? Whose character are you allowing to be expressed through you today?
Be encouraged, God is present in you and wanting to glorify Himself through you, with His all-glorious character, the choice is yours, choose Him. Character Is Not Taught, It Is Caught!
Living the Victorious Life
Living the Victorious Life
Living the Victorious Life
Living the Victorious Life