Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Character Matters

Most churches and denominations have a list of beliefs that are considered basic to a person’s membership in that church. Some call the list of beliefs a “creed.” Among protestant churches, most start out with statements about the Trinity, the Bible, and salvation. I went through the list I am most familiar with the other day and put a “B” beside every one that simply required me to give mental assent, and “B/A” if it required belief and some sort of action. The “B’s” far outnumbered the “B/A’s.” Then I looked up all the passages in the Gospels where Jesus described who would be a part of His Kingdom. Of course, I began with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, then with the help of the concordance, using the word “kingdom,” proceeded to other passages. I came up with a list of 14 descriptions of the saved. I attempted to use my “B” and “A” system to compare them to the requirements of belonging to a church. It did not work. Instead, I had to come up with another letter: “C,” standing for a character quality. Here is the list of character qualities I found: 1) meek (humble), 2) mourning over one's spiritual condition (as opposed to pride), 3) gentle, 4) merciful, 5) pure in heart, 6) peacemaker, 7) standing for right even when persecuted, 8) trusting in Christ in spite of persecution, 9) doing God’s will rather than merely professing it, 10) forgiving others, 11) being willing to obey, 12) persevering, 13) giving to those who cannot return the favor, 14) and being born of the Spirit. Obviously numbers 7, 8, 9, and 11 imply deeply held beliefs. I am not advocating the current trend toward no absolutes — everything is relative. But character is how a person holds his or her beliefs. What would happen if a church required that people who belonged were moving in the direction of character development through the Holy Spirit’s power rather than submitting to a set of beliefs? It seems that God can take a person of character and quickly help them on their beliefs — even in heaven — as opposed to taking someone who is “right” on beliefs, but has little or no character. Maybe we should bring Jesus up to date on how things work today! Or, have we morphed in the direction of that which can be measured as opposed to what God is really looking for? I would like to hear your response.

Dennis Pumford
Assistant Directional Leader