Friday, June 24, 2011

Character Revealed

A friend posted the following quote as his Facebook status today:  "It is impossible to learn anything important about anyone until we get him or her to disagree with us; it is only in contradiction that character is disclosed." Sydney J. Harris

Sydney J. Harris (14 September 1917 - 8 December 1986) was an American journalist for the Chicago Daily News, and the Chicago Sun-Times. But, this isn't about Mr. Harris. This is about disagreements and character.

It is no secret that Christians often use the Bible as an excuse to behave badly. I've written about many a "believer" who manipulates scripture for his or her own nefarious activities. It's shameful.

Pharisaical people are also great at twisting scripture to support their actions when others disagree with them. How great it must be to toss all personal responsibility onto God. You don't like the way I lead my ministry, raise my kids, honor my spouse, treat my neighbor, or do my job? Well, "God led me to do it this way". Who's going to argue with that logic?

It'd be awesome if my employer would let me palm off my responsibilities in that manner. I could not show up for work all week and say, "God spoke to me, and He told me I should take a few days off to refresh, renew, and fellowship with him." Hmmm...I wonder how that would go over with my boss? And yet, I've had Sunday School teachers use that exact excuse for not showing up on Sunday mornings with nary a phone call to cover their shift. And they get away with it!

I'm pretty sure God calls us to honor our commitments. 

Most of us sit in our church pews, bow our heads during prayer, raise our hands during worship, and drop a few bucks in the offering plate. And yet, there are people - brothers and sisters - sitting on the other side of the room with whom we argue and disagree. How we handle those conflicts is a reflection of our character.

The fact that we have misunderstandings and squabbles is a part of the human condition and most often unavoidable. How we deal with discord and strife, however, is a reflection of our character. When we blame God for our junk, we are a poor reflection of God's character. The majority of Christ followers would agree that God is perfect, so how can we blame our imperfection on Him?

It's not okay to use God as a cover for what I lack in personal character and honor. Owning up to my mistakes is hard and painful, but nothing of real value is ever easy. 

Now, let's get off the pew, take personal ownership of our successes AND our failures, and let's take seriously the task of developing strong characters within. Remember, it is in times of disagreement and dissension that our character is disclosed. We aren't fooling anyone. God longs to shine through us.

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