I've wondered about character for a long time. Growing up in a Christian homeschool family, you hear the word plenty. There are books that build character and songs that build character and friends that build character... all kinds of things.
"Build character"? What does that mean? What does "character" even mean??
I finally figured it out, and then I promptly wondered why no one had ever told me before... and why it took me so long to figure it out. :P
Very simply, character is your habitual response. For instance, when you are provoked, the way you regularly respond indicates what kind of character you have. If you usually respond kindly, you are a kind person. If you mostly respond with anger, you are an angry person.
It's just... habit. The way you normally respond to life. Do you make the lazy choice or the diligent choice? Do you work hard or do you just do "enough"? Do you put others first or do you put yourself first?
Well, then. So how do books and so forth build character??
If the attitudes and actions portrayed as good in the majority of books you read are Christlike ones, you will grow to appreciate and accept those attitudes--and, slowly, they will become part of your response. What we are surrounded with is what we become. This is also true in reverse, of course. And I'm sure you can see the results of the kind of media most people choose... it's quite evident in our culture.
The next question that occurs in this thought process is the most crucial: "Why is having good character important?"
Now I'm sure most of us would agree that it's a least a little bit important to have good character. Or at least that everyone else doesn't have it and they should!! :D (Have you ever noticed how ironic it is that we tend to complain about people complaining? Or gossip about someone else gossiping? Or point out everyone else's need for good character while neglecting your own? :P) We've heard about character plenty, or at least I have.
But why?? (I must have been an annoying child... I always want to know why.)
Finally, finally, I'm getting it. It's so much broader and more important and glorious than people make it out to be. It's not just us looking good or making our parents look good. It's not just being a good person. It's not just about other people. (gasp)
It's about Christ. It's about the reason we exist.
Why do we exist? "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
And, I ask you, how can we possibly glorify God if we are not building and striving for Christlike character? If we are not in the habit of responding kindly, how can they see Christ's kindness in us? If we are not in the habit of responding meekly and humbly, how can they see Christ's humility? If we are not responding in love and forgiveness, how can they understand Christ's love and forgiveness?
If we are not purposefully seeking to make God look great by our actions, why are we here?? And how dare we call ourselves followers of Christ?? Followers, you see, FOLLOW the person they are following...
Yes, it is His power that works in us. Without Him, it is impossible for us to become like Him. Only Christ can be Christ.
But if we are so full of US--how can He come in and take over? If we are so busy listening to worldly influences, how can we hear that still small voice of the Holy Spirit? If we are so busy gratifying our flesh, how can we walk in the Spirit? If we are so caught up in the things of this world, how can we love God? If we are so sure of our own strength, how can He show Himself strong in us?
We are called to fight. We are called to endure. We are called to press on. We are called to lay aside the weights. We are called to put off our old nature and put on Christ.
We must take action.
We cannot sit still and expect God to magically poof us into being like Him.
We must make those little choices, every day.
Humility over pride. Patience over impatience. Joy over complaining. Peace over worry. Diligence over laziness.
Little choices. Big results.
Why? Why choose to help your little sister instead of reading that novel? Why give up the last seat to that old lady? Why clean up the kitchen when it isn't your job? Why keep working until your story is the best you can make it? Why choose to tell the truth even though it may cost you dearly? Why keep loving someone even when they hurt you over and over?
Because of Christ. Because He loves you. Because His way is the best way. Because... that is how you bring God glory, how you show Him to be like He really is.
It may not seem to make any difference. Probably people won't notice that you took the extra ten minutes to dust the fan when you were only asked to dust the blinds. Probably no one will see that you gave up the last bagel so your little sister could have one. Probably no one will cheer when you choose to do your school instead of goofing off. Probably getting up an hour earlier so you can pray won't make the headlines. Probably no one will notice that you rewrote your blog post five times instead of throwing it together. Probably no one will know how hard you had to bite your tongue to keep from making that mean comment. Probably no one will know how hard it was to forgive that one person.
Oh, but God knows. And He takes great pleasure in it. And it does glorify Him.
And, moreover, there will come a day when there are big choices to be made. When the stakes are high and the world is watching and Christ's name is in the balance.
What will you do then? If you have consistently made the good little choices, you will just do what you always do. Of course you will tell the truth even though you'll go to jail--isn't that what you've been doing all along? Of course you will forgive the ones who killed your brother--isn't that what you've been doing all along?
These days will come. Mark my words.
Will you be ready?