Political pundits and pollsters tell us that in the western world, character is not important. What concerns people is the economy and their standard of living. The character of its leaders, their personal lives, moral values and integrity are not as important as how successfully they meet our needs. A success oriented society cares little about the means. It is so self centered that its only concern is the result to self.
This philosophy may serve the world well, but is it the standard of the Word of God for His people? The clear and eloquent message of the Scripture is that in divine things, character counts! The articles in our issue this month underline this vital principle.
Character is vital for leaders. Paul's instructions to both Timothy and Titus reveal that those who lead the people of God must be marked by character more than anything else. The overwhelming emphasis in the seventeen items mentioned in 1 Timothy 3 is on the leader's moral character. The epistle of Titus likewise stresses those moral virtues which are an imperative if a man is to lead God's people. "Apt to teach" is the only hint at gift and Scriptural knowledge. It is not suggesting the lack of its importance but rather the significance of the inward qualities which will result in an outwardly blameless life. It was character in a man such as Mr. Edward Fairfield which touched a young man for the Lord.
Character is imperative for those who preach and teach the Word of God. Paul is very clear in his instructions to Timothy (1 Tim 4:12). If Timothy is going to be a help at Ephesus, it will not be accomplished as rd the result of intensive instruction in human relationships or assertiveness training. His usefulness will not depend so much upon his gift as upon his godliness. Timothy is reminded that he must be an example to the believers in his personal and public life. The Word of God must control him if it is going to control and help others.
Paul could, without fear of contradiction, remind the Thessalonians what kind of man he was among them (1 Thes 2:1-12). Motive, manner and methods were all open to their scrutiny. This truth is underscored in the article by Clark Logan on missionary life.
Character is essential for all believers. The Lord Jesus taught that all true sons of the kingdom are marked by the same virtues (Matt 5-7). Personality, the sum total of our emotional makeup, varies. Character should be identical. Character is nothing less than the life of Christ seen in the believer. It is moral conformity to Him. This is not an option for us. This is not the domain of leaders and preachers. Character is essential for all believers. Without it, assemblies will falter regardless of gift. Without it, relationships among the people of God will be strained and superficial, no matter how well intentioned. Apart from it, the best teaching and preaching will be but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. The well written articles by Mr. Albert McShane and Mr. Jim Smith reminds us of both the need and the development of character.
Character is formed by a consistent application of the Word of God to my life and by communion with the Lord Jesus. It is not the result of a how-to book or adherence to the latest wave of teaching. It is the outcome of a life lived in-fellowship with the Lord Jesus.