Character…just what is it? My understanding is that character is who/what you really are, and the part of you that you take with you into eternity…the only thing we take with us. That being true, what an awesome responsibility that puts on us to be the very best we can be.
After 35 years of counseling, and teaching inmates the wonderful course on Healing for Damaged Emotions, I have to say I have truly learned a bushel about what we are by nature and what we can and should become as we allow the Spirit of God to sanctify us. The “old man” is naturally bent toward being and doing wrong, to be about anything that is anti-God, basically to live for self and satisfy the flesh. A good list of “fleshy” character read Galatians 5:19-21. That portion of Scripture is talking about living and acting “after the flesh.” It goes on to urge us to walk “after the Spirit.” Then follows a list of Godly character qualities that will be evident in the life of a Spirit-led believer. That’s what I’d like to blog about for a few days.
In Galatians 5, the first quality mentioned is love. We all have knowledge of what “love” means, to some degree or another. Most of we believers know the Bible uses three words for love, eros, phileo, and agape. the meanings are pretty evident, eros is physical even erotic love, phileo is brotherly love one to another and agape is unconditional love, such as God has for us. As simply as possible those are the definitions. Eros does not really need much commentary, it speaks to physical or sensual love, pretty self-explanatory. Phileo is alittle more complex, but basically it is the type of love we should have for brothers and sisters in Christ, close friends, extended family members, etc. Agape is more complex and covers a good bit more emotion that the others. Romans says that God loved us before we loved Him. In most cases we were not even thinking about Him and yet He was watching over us, caring for us and keeping us safe and even alive. It is not in our nature to love unconditionally…the closest thing to it is possibly a mothers love, but even that because of our fallen nature can be conditional. We just naturally attach conditions to our love. In my experience with inmates, it is the one that causes the worst damage to emotional growth because it sets up a series of re-actions to the “feeling” of not measuring up. Most of my men related that they spent most of their lives up to that point trying to please parents, or one parent. Usually it was dad, and in many if not most cases, the emotion they felt toward dad, they also felt toward God…it is an acknowledged fact psychologically that we all get our initial view of God through our relationship with parents/parent. Many of us have a difficult time trusting God…if we examine ourselves, we find we did not always trust that parent, and that emotion goes back to unconditional love…”if you don’t please me, I will withhold my love.” Consequently, it takes along time of walking with the Lord to learn just how trustworthy He is. Let me add, parents do not usually set out to handicap their children, it is a function of the fall, our old nature. Unless we are mature believers and have developed a good Spirit-controlled character, our parenting will be imperfect at best. More mature believing parents, controlled by the Holy Spirit will convey a much more complete loving attitude personally and a more loving and affirming home life. I once heard it said, “the best gift a father can give his children is to unconditionally love their mother.” I believe that to be a tremendous statement, and very, very true.
MORE NEXT TIME.