Three Character Traits Every Believer needs to Develop:
It may just be “bragging if you can back it up” (Dizzy Dean, Muhammad Ali, Reggie Jackson, others) – but it’s still arrogant!
Believers aren’t perfect; just forgiven. To state it a little more directly: No believer is perfect; all are forgiven. In no area is that understanding more important than when dealing with our approach to things about which the scripture is plain.
No one would dispute a believer’s obligation to stand boldly in support of principles that are clearly taught in scripture. Failure to do so is disobedience. But we must also understand that our attitude when taking that stand is important. We all have a tendency to approach our responsibility with blinders on. We see circumstances through the filter of our personal experience, (which may include unjust criticism or treatment), act accordingly, and then boldly defend our approach with scripture. If we are not cautious, however, we can easily violate biblical teaching in other areas.
Here are three right positions commonly paired with wrong attitudes that believers should seek to avoid:
- Conviction without Conceit: Every Christian needs to remember the statement at the beginning of this article: “No believer is perfect.” We don’t have to convince others that we are right to defend our convictions, nor should that be our goal. Truth is the focus, not our “rightness.” Nor does Scripture demand that we coerce others to accept that truth. We are messengers, not enforcers. Our job is to faithfully proclaim and defend the truth, leaving the persuasion to the Holy Spirit. And we must never become “proud” of being right.
- Courage without Contention: Courage does not always require a fight, and we should never intentionally instigate one. Modern day Christianity is unnecessarily splintered because many believers assume that taking a non-combatant approach regarding unambiguous biblical truth is evidence of weakness or timidity. Yet scripture clearly identifies meekness as a positive character trait of our Savior; a quality that we are encouraged to emulate.
- Compassion without Compromise: In today’s society it is common to make excuses for wrong behavior, supposedly demonstrating compassion. Young people, in particular, are often given a pass simply because of their age. But an excuse that works for a five year old who has not yet learned the dangers of wrong behavior falls flat when the offender is eighteen. A keen sense of personal accountability is crucial to the successful function of human society, and children only gain that understanding when they are compelled to bear responsibility for their actions.
We must remember that compromising principle is not a sign of compassion, and the scripture does not teach us to do so. The Savior never ignored wrong behavior. Instead, He consistently addressed it with kindness, while displaying compassion. Our Heavenly Father demonstrates His compassion for us, specifically, by chastening (Heb. 12:6).
Taking a right stand while avoiding a wrong attitude is a huge challenge simply because our flesh is still involved in every encounter we have. While we are compelled to “speak the truth,” we are commanded to do so “in love” (Eph. 4:15).
We must also remember that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Every encounter the Savior had with sinners was driven by His love, which was always in clear view. They listened, and responded to His message because they knew He cared.
Christ is our example. We are being transformed into His image, and our testimony will have far more impact when His character becomes visible in us.