In the fast-paced “get ahead” culture of the day, I sometimes wonder if the old-fashioned virtue of character has been left at the side of the road as we race ahead. It was once taught not only in churches, but homes and schools as well. It was a time when a person’s word was their bond and deals were sealed with a handshake instead of pages and pages of a contract written in legalese.
Perhaps one of our problems is that we have diluted and individualized our definition of character. We may feel our actions or words are totally appropriate but condemn those of someone we disagree with when they exhibit the same ones.
But it isn’t just the character of our fellow human beings we fail to understand or recognize. It is difficult to be sure of whether or not we recognize and understand the character of God. And if we do not, then how can we truly have faith?
“Biblical faith rests on the character of God.”
Debbie Wilson in Little Faith, Big God
Too often from Old Testament days to the present his character has been based on whether we see Him as benevolent or doing those things that we most want from Him. To do so can easily leave us in “no man’s land” because it is tainted with our own selfish motives.
Gaining a deeper understanding of God’s character can be found by seeing how Jesus portrayed Him as He walked the earth and by more than random reading of the Bible to have a more comprehensive view of the consistency of that character from Genesis to Revelation. If we fail to look at the full scope, we will be much like the story of the blind man and the elephant – describing Him only as whatever part we touched versus the whole of Him.
“When God seems narrow, it’s safe to say we’re looking at the situation from the wrong perspective. Maybe it’s better to say He is precise. He knows what works and what doesn’t.” – Debbie Wilson
One of the ways we demonstrate we fail to understand God’s character is how we respond when we mess up. Do we behave more like Adam and Eve – hiding and trying to avoid Him? Or do we run to the safety and grace found in his arms?
If it is the latter answer we can see that we have understood the character of God that sent Jesus to earth to show us who He is and eliminate the impact of those tragic missteps in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. We understand He wants to not only be with us throughout eternity, but in the day-to-day living where we so often trip up.
I love how Debbie Wilson puts this in Little Faith, Big God:
“God does not weigh our good deeds against our bad ones. He weighs our sin by whether we’ve trusted or rejected Jesus.”
Maybe our struggle is worse because He gave us the freedom to choose the path we take. With that gift of freedom also comes the burden of responsibility and when we are honest, taking responsibility for poor choices is not an area we are especially good at most of the time. Not only do we miss how it can and will impact us, but also how it impacts others.
It doesn’t take too many pages in Genesis to see how the decisions or choices of Adam and Eve and a long list of others resulted in consequences we are living with today.
Sometimes we believe we know the character of a person only to discover we missed something later. That happens because we can only truly know the character of someone by spending a great deal of time in relationship with them. God invites that intimate level of relationship with Him so we can rest in the truth of his character, but do we really invest the time needed for that to happen?
It’s walking with someone, spending time with them through good times and bad, that we come to really know his or her character. That is how the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 came to know and understand the character of God. That list of “heroes” messed up and evidenced more than a few flaws…just like we are.
“His Covenant is greater than our commitment.”
Eric and Kristin Hill