“Character Matters”

“Maybe you’re wrong,” I thought to myself after reading a politically charged, hurtful post by a friend on social media. Should I call him out, or just let it go? Drawing conclusions before gathering all the data and carefully studying the evidence can have unintended consequences and disastrous results. Knowing what data to gather can be just as important as its analysis and conclusions.

 

“Maybe I’m wrong,” I think to myself, recognizing the fact that I often err. Perhaps I need to widen the scope of my information sources, listen more carefully, examine more critically, think more deeply, and pray more thoroughly. Self-examination is a helpful discipline that, when used properly, can result in better discernment and decision making.

 

“Maybe we are both wrong,” is a possibility that once it surfaces it can’t be repressed. People are complex, juggling multiple challenges at any one time. Issues can have competing priorities, conflicting values, even destructive consequences. I should be more empathetic. Too often I find myself trapped into believing that life and discipleship is a zero-sum game – yes or no, wrong or right, win or lose, my way or your way – when it’s not. The challenges we face are often “both / and”, “yes and no”, a negotiated compromise that leads to a stronger, more cooperative way forward.

 

“Maybe we are both right,” is humble recognition that God is at work in the lives of each of us, and throughout all creation. I need to honor and respect God at work in someone other than me. Can I replace my self-center point of view with a God centered world view? Can we embark on a mission of more deeply learning about one another? The discovery of common ground, learning to live peacefully in spite of differences, and collaborating with others to advance values, vision, and goals results in stronger communities and is immensely rewarding.

 

Character matters.

 

There are many fine books and courses on leadership in the church, business, and government. I have learned much over the years about leadership, and I am grateful. At the same time, there is much about church leadership that is shallow, resulting in a cookie cutter approach for the purpose of church growth. “Look at me, study my example, see how I grew a mega-church, be just like me”. I stopped worshiping at the altar of church growth many decades ago. I live for Jesus. Growth for growth sake leaves me cold.

 

Few are the books and discussions on character. Character is what we say and what we do in public and in private. It reflects our deepest values and beliefs. It is, as some have observed, “what you do when no one is watching.” As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I’m in constant desire to improve my character, as John Wesley called it, “moving on to Christian perfection.”

 

I’m currently reading “Sailing True North” by 4 Star Admiral James Stavridis. He writes short biographies on ten different admirals in history who changed the world, with a focus on character. What can be learned about character, both good and bad, that can lead to our own reflection, transformation, and improvement? His insights are thought provoking and challenging.

 

Using the metaphor of the Apostle Paul, when I put on Christ, I’m also attempting to put on the character of Christ. Like dressing, putting on Christ is a routine practiced every day, lived out in words and deeds.

 

Beloved, be of good character! Make a New Year’s Resolution to journey with me, humbly growing in character, becoming more like Christ, moving on to perfection.

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