One take away we can observe from the recent U.S. mid-term elections is – character was a major factor. To clarify a little, there are 2 types of character. One is the way the world looks at character, and the other is from God’s point of view. We need to be clear about the difference.
The world looks at character more in the realm of personality. Which means that character has no real boundaries. It is just the way someone is.
The Britannica Dictionary definition of character: The way someone thinks, feels, and behaves — someone’s personality. Character traits are a combination of the different qualities that define character, such as thoughts, feelings, personality, and the choices they make. In short, these character traits make them who they are.
Notice that there are no morally defining qualities mentioned. This understanding of character was on full display during this recent election. The candidate’s lifestyle could reflect the entire spectrum of human conduct – and that is acceptable under this understanding of character.
In our current environment we are expected to accept all aspects of individualism – so long as it is not clearly conservative. You can be anything you want. Have any type of personality and that is to be accepted by the whole. In fact, I will vote for you regardless of who you are if it is in my best interests. God identifies this state of affairs in these terms: “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness” (Proverbs 30:12).
Or, to put it another way – “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). In simple terms it means that, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes…” (Proverbs 16:2).
For God’s people to understand character we must give it context. That context is moral in nature. Morality is concerned with principles of right and wrong behavior — holding or manifesting high principles for proper conduct. Those principles have a source outside of a man being pure in his own eyes.
True character is based on the right and wrong established by God, not man. The Apostle Paul demonstrated this when he wrote to the church in Rome. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary. I would not have known sin except through the law…” Then Paul provided this perfect example. “For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7). God’s law, not the natural mind, defines morality for human conduct.
Human reason always tries to modify the God ordained requirements of human conduct.
A perfect example of this is this interaction between God’s servant Samuel and King Saul. “Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.’ But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’ And Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed’” (1 Samuel 15:13-15). This was in response to Saul being told to utterly destroy all that they have and not to spare them.
He used human reason to justify not doing what he was told to do and to convince himself that he was in compliance with God’s directions. A perfect example of the ways of a man being pure in his own eyes. Are we ever guilty of the same reasoning?
“Character is formed in relation to convictions and is manifested in the capacity to abide by those convictions even in, especially in, the face of temptation.” The Death of Character, James Hunter. Our convictions are formed by the Holy Spirit writing God’s law in our hearts. When we abide by these convictions, we are building godly character.
You, as a member of Christ’s body, are a fish swimming upstream against the current. The current is growing stronger. How well are you swimming?