Most recently the scandals and inappropriate actions associated with some politicians has caused me to revisit some of the thoughts I wrote about in the book Guts, Grace, and Glory. This book was developed around understanding the importance of having biblical character.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the New Testament, he elaborated on the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy:
Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul. (2 Timothy 2:15–17)
Success and influence is ultimately about integrity or what we can call character. As the nineteenth-century writer Charles Reade once said, “Sow a thought, and you reap an act; sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
Chuck Swindoll reminds us, “And so it remains, our character is more important than our position; more important than our fame; more important than any glory; more important than our power, and more vital to our country and families than ever before.”
What is character anyway? Character is the moral, ethical, and spiritual under-girding that rests on truth that reinforces a life, and that also resists the temptation to compromise. It is doing the right thing on purpose. And it is doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.
In the past I’ve had the privilege of working with a few professional football and baseball teams in the area of character development. I regularly asked players to consider their reputation and the legacy they wish to leave when their pro ball days are over. Most players, unfortunately, have not taken much time to think about the question as to how they will be remembered beyond their physical achievements
I endeavored to explain the importance of leaving football with a positive image, one that won’t soil their family name. Proverbs 22:1 reminds us, “A good name is to be more desired than great riches.” The next generation will not remember the ranking of a player or the politician’s platform as much as they will recall his attitudes and comments made in front of the camera or to a reporter or how he lived his personal and family life.
More important than an individual’s physical skills, more important than his game preparation, more important than his knowledge of football, more important than his leadership abilities and more important than his ability to coach others, is the development of a great character. The same is true about politicians, leaders, and others in influential positions.
It is the single consistent quality for success in life and in one’s chosen occupation. People often compromise their integrity today because they operate from a mindset of “following the crowd” – that is, they listen more to others more than they listen to God. They are more concerned with “being like them” rather than “being like Him.”
When Christ was delivering His Sermon on the Mount, one of His purposes was to communicate what is required to have a godly character (to be “like Him”). Jesus encouraged His followers to be of good virtue and to act with a pure heart. If we are to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” we need to follow Christ’s teachings as exemplified in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:2-11).
What intrigues you most about the way our leaders portray themselves to others?
How can you better model a Christ-like character?
What does the following Scripture tell you about the development of great character: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4.
Jim Grassi, D. Min.