Saturday, August 18, 2012

Christian Character Development Part 3

So far in our study on Character Development we’ve considered four Character traits the apostle Peter told his fellow Christians to work on in his second letter (1:4-8).  Let us now consider some more.

Endurance is the “quality… of withstanding hardship or stress” (The American Heritage Dictionary).  The Greek word is υπομενω (G5278) which is a strengthened form of μενω (G3306) which means to be placed or rooted; to endure.  Υπομενω, then, means to “endure, bear bravely and calmly” (Thayer’s, pg. 674, meaning 2b.)  The implication in the word is to endure, or bear up, under tribulation.  Tribulation comes in many forms and from many directions.  In the United State of America, where I live it comes primarily through being disowned by family or friends and the consequent killing of one’s reputation.

The world does not like that which is not its own and persecuted our Lord first of all. (John 1:9-11).  As his slaves we are no better than our Master and can expect no better than what he got (Matt. 10:25, 25).  So family may cut us off, as some of mine have, and one can expect to be slandered, often behind their backs by both family and friends.  They may lose jobs, as one Christian fellow I know did when the ministers of his town banded together to get him fired because of his beliefs.

In some lands, though, true Christians are subject to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment and even execution.  They may also be subject to mob attacks and beaten or even killed.  And lest we think we are secure from that kind of persecution here in the Western nations there are historical precedents as recent as the twentieth century for such harsh persecution.

So endurance is an important quality to cultivate right now if we find ourselves in lands where persecution does not extend beyond social disapprobation.  And in lands where it is worse it behooves Christians to cultivate that quality all the faster.  Although no persecution is pleasant, our Lord told us to rejoice over it in his sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:11, 12).  The last verse tells us why “for great is your reward in heaven.”  That is the bottom line for true Christians and keeping our focus on that is what helps us to have the proper attitude in the face of persecution.

Godliness is the next trait.  Godliness is translated from the Greek word ευσεβεια (G2150).  Vine’s says that this word “denotes that piety, which characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him,” that is, God.  So the true Christian wants to please the Almighty God, Jehovah, and seeks the already covered knowledge of what pleases him, as the person portrayed by the psalmist in the first psalm, and then does his or her best to do it.

The truly godly Christian is not one who does things for show, rather, he or she is motivated from the heart to please the God whose character they have come to appreciate.  Thus they become like a lamp themselves, shinning forth in this world darkened by Satan’s influence.  Although it can be cultivated true Godliness is not a forced trait since it comes from the heart and is motivated by God’s Holy Spirit.

Brotherly Kindness is the last trait we will consider today.  The Greek word here is φιλαδελφια (G5360).  We know the word from the city name Philadelphia, or the City or Brotherly Love as it is often called.  This word is a combination of two words, one which means brother and the other which is one of the five words in Greek which mean love.  This love was the sort of love one feels for their best friend, or a soldier feels for a fellow soldier.  It is a deep love, one which will move a person to stand and fight beside a bother in arms, and even die for him.  It is also the same love which will move us to stand up for our best friend and help them no matter what the trouble or risk.

So by adding brother to loving as a best friend we get a combination telling us in addition to the traits already discussed to cultivate love for our Christian brethren, such as we would die for them if need be.  This is consistent with a command Jesus gave specifically to his followers to follow after his death.  On the night before his crucifixion Jesus commanded his disciples, not once, but twice for emphasis, that they were to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:31-35; 15:12-17).  Jesus did everything he could for his disciples, spending himself right through to death.  He sacrificed his life for them and us, that we might have life immortal in the heavens should we prove worthy.  Thus he left us the command to love our Christian brethren, even unto death if necessary.

That means we will always want the best for our brethren.  We will watch out for their reputations and not add to any burden they might already have to bear due to the hatred of this world by passing on unkind words.  Should we see them take a misstep, we would want to help them adjust their way in a spirit of mildness (Gal. 6:1).  Should we see them in need we would fill that need, even if it meant materially, pulling money out of our own pockets if God has given us enough surplus we can fill that need (James 2:14-17).  We would give freely and willingly and not seek excuses to justify otherwise, thus be in danger of becoming judges over our own godly brethren (Matt. 7:1-3).  The aim is to be perfect in our love toward all, but especially our Christian brethren as our father in heaven is perfect in his (Matt 5: 48). 

By doing this towards each other we become a true brotherhood, and our strength becomes more than the sum.  That helps us to be Godly and have more endurance.  It is not without reason the Bible often applies military metaphors to the brotherhood of Christians.  We are not alone in our race, never forget that dear reader.

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