I once heard character defined as ‘who you are when no one is looking.’ I think it’s a pretty apt definition! Our character is, like a watermark on a sheet of paper, an indelible part of who we are in every part of our lives, every day. At a basic level, our character defines us; it defines us more than our family heritage, more than our vocation, and more than our possessions.
This is true of everyone, not just those who follow Jesus. But it is perhaps especially true of Jesus-followers, since we know that our lives cannot be compartmentalized. We cannot be Christians, with the character that involves, on Sunday morning, and something else the rest of the week. It doesn’t work that way. In reality, no one can be one thing at one point and something else another time, and maintain any sense of integrity. Even a chameleon, which can change colours to blend in with its environment and fool predators, is still a chameleon; it doesn’t become a rock, like the one on which it is perched when it changes colour.
I’ve wanted to avoid using this illustration, but I am compelled. The Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, who checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic yesterday, consistently said – after being forced to admit to crack cocaine use – that what he did in his private life did not affect his work as the Mayor of Canada’s largest city.
I willingly admit that I did, at one time, have a fair degree of sympathy for Mr. Ford, but once he started saying things like that, he lost my sympathy and gained my pity. When a human being believes he can be one kind of person with one group of people and another kind of person with another group, there is a disconnect that indicates a loss of grasp on one’s own personal reality.
Frankly, it’s a lot easier to be the same person irrespective of who you hang around with; there’s nothing to hide, and no one is surprised to see you in any other context, because who you are at the root of your character dictates what decisions you will make and what actions you will take.
As a follower of Jesus, does that describe you? Are you a Christian when you drive? When you work? When you hang around with your friends? When you invest?
To be sure, none of us is going to get it all right, all the time; perfection for us is reserved for God’s eternal Kingdom. But the hope is that each of us, as we follow and serve the Lord, will become more like Jesus every day, maintaining consistent character, being known as a follower of Jesus wherever we go and whatever we do. It’s a growth process; let’s be growing in the right direction. Remember the Golden Rule?
“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6.31, NIV).
Good, consistent Christian character goes a long way toward fulfilling it.