Character Counts

This week my heart was heavy as I followed the news reports of the mob that stormed the Capitol and desecrated our national symbol of democracy. This was not a peaceful demonstration, but an ugly act of bully tactics. The thought of a sitting President stoking the fires of this assault on our democracy is deeply disturbing.  His lust for power and his willingness to do whatever it takes to hold onto it is the frightening consequence when power is entrusted to a person who is found wanting in godly character.

This appalling display is a manifestation of a viral strain of pride that has been passed down throughout the millennia. It ran through the veins of the disciples as well. Two of them along with their mother, asked Jesus if they could sit on His right and left in His kingdom. The other disciples were upset at such a bold request, not because they felt it was audacious, but because they had been beaten to the punch! In another incident, as Jesus and His disciples made their way to Jerusalem, a Samaritan village along the route refused to receive them. Indignant, these same two disciples asked for permission to use their power and call down fire from heaven to destroy the village.

A large part of Jesus’ ministry toward His disciples was to instill in them the character they would need because they would be entrusted with power. When character is lacking, power can be consuming and corrupting. Godly character may not sound very exciting to us, but it is the primary, sanctifying work that the Holy Spirit does in our lives. Servants who lack it cannot be depended upon. Leaders who lack it should be held accountable. Skills, talents, charisma, intelligence, and wisdom are admirable qualities but none of these can be a substitute for godly character.

2 Peter 1:5-8
5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The type of person we are becoming is so important that Peter says we must ‘make every effort’ in our pursuit of developing our character. This is not just something we should insist our leaders possess, it is something we should demand of ourselves. If not, we run the risk that the strain of pride we’ve contracted will take full effect and we’ll be storming our own capitols.

I believe those who broke the law should be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions. I believe this is the appropriate and biblical responsibility of our civic authorities. But in the darker corners of my own heart I'm tempted to go beyond that. I want to label them, de-humanize them, and discard them. Yet I'm reminded that our Lord's heart is to redeem discarded people. Ours is not the ministry of shaming and ostracizing, ours is the ministry of reconciliation and healing.  The Pharisees were Jesus' most vocal opponents and He gave His harshest rebukes to them. Yet some of these enemies of Christ were somehow won over and we see them as part of the infant church (Acts 15). It was messy and they brought in some of their past perspectives, yet they were able to work through their differences through dialogue, prayer, and unity around Christ. Let's commit ourselves to this same ministry.

1 Comment

Lori Lau - January 18th, 2021 at 12:48pm

Thanks PJ for sharing - praying for u and your pastoral staff - to stay close to the Lord and seek His will in all that u do and share as we walk they this turbulent time.