The Importance of Character


By Brent Coltharp

“What have you done for me lately?” is a phrase that is often introduced when expressing displeasure with an individual’s current performance. It is an indicator that while they may have provided helpful things at one time, they have not done so lately. This phrase is an embodiment of the expectations of our current society and culture, an expectation for consistent performance. In fact, performance is the sole criteria of success in many contexts.

Contemporary society is enamored with the achievement of the moment. This ideology results in success being observed as fleeting, cyclical, here today and gone tomorrow. It leads to labels such as, “the one-hit wonder” and reflective follow-ups such as, “where are they now.” Attention and affirmation become directly tied to current achievement, rather than the biblical value of faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:2).

There is a danger in judging success based solely on performance. Erroneous doctrines such as relativism begin to emerge, where the slogan is, “The end justifies the means.” Immoral actions become acceptable if moral outcomes are perceived to be the result. In a society that is governed by such a philosophy, there are no longer absolutes. Knowledge, truth, and morality are determined by the prevailing culture, society, and historical context, not by an absolute rule. Does this sound familiar? It is Las Vegas that has emphasized this philosophy with their popular slogan, “What happens here, stays here.”

The God of the Bible is concerned with more than performance, not to minimize the importance of correct behavior. In the kingdom of God, motive matters, not just the right behavior and the resulting consequence. The scriptures emphasize the importance of “being,” as much as “doing.” We are called to be human “beings.” The biblical writers stressed an ethic that goes beyond the situation (the situational ethic of relativism), to virtue and character. Paul exhorts the Romans to not conform to surrounding culture; rather they are to be transformed by the renewing of their mind (Rom. 12:2). Further, Paul transcends performance when he instructs the church to fill their minds (meditate) with things that are just, pure, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, and virtuous. It is evident that there is an expectation for the total transformation of the whole person, that humanity go beyond performance to proper character.

The good news is that as holistic beings, we have the power to build and shape our character by choosing our thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5) and determining our actions. This is why Peter instructs for us to add faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Pet. 1:5-8). The Spirit-filled believer has been empowered to abound and be fruitful. The question is, what are we adding to our lives? Who are we becoming? God is calling us to go beyond performance to Christian character, “…to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).