Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I would be wise to remember this...

"Your giftedness and charm may open doors but your character will determine what you will do once those doors are open. We can become enamored with a person's gifting and or/charisma in which we then tend to excuse their sin, arrogance, and bad character."  ~  Shared by Tiana Song from her pastor one Sunday morning.
Ben and I an New Years Eve 2010
Ben is always talking about character.  The Bible is too come to think of it.  Ben often uses character as a measure of whether someone can be trusted and is good to have in his/our life.  Character can be such an ambiguous term but I think this definition fits best to what I am referring to:  "The inherent complex of attributes that determines a persons moral and ethical actions and reactions."  Character is one of the most important things that defines us.  It shows God, others, and even ourselves the kind of person we really are, what we value, who we value, and how we nurture those values.
I try, daily, to apply this to my life, how I make decisions, and how I treat those around me.  Will I go the extra mile for a friend in need?  Will I take time that I generally define as "mine" to serve someone else, to consciously spend time with God, to cheer up a friend, to pass on a work of kindness, listen when someone needs it most, or do something just because it is "the right thing to do"?  
I think that I am often shocked by others who don't inherently think this way or consider these things.  I know I shouldn't be, selfishness and self-centeredness runs rampant in our society, but I honestly just don't know how these people live with themselves.  Perhaps I care too much about others feelings but, believe me, I wouldn't choose to have it the other way around.  I adore caring for others.  Nurturing my friendships, family, and other relationships drives me in this life.  If I have to fight my co-dependent nature so be it, but rather that than be an insensitive person.  I have been told (honestly by many people over the years) that my efforts to show my love can be "overwhelming" and "too intense".  I can see that as being true but I refuse to apologize for loving too hard.  I crave deep relationships and that is just a part of who I am.
When I think I have hurt someone I lose sleep at night until I at least try to make it right.  I wonder why others are not this way.  I am confused by how others are able to deeply hurt the ones they love and completely detach.  Perhaps this is harder for them than they show, but all I can see if what they do outwardly.  The detachment ability, I must admit, I am jealous of.  I think I would be less hurt by some of the rejection in my past had I been able to harness this trait.     
Annah Joseph and Little Niece Claire
 Which brings me to my next point, I think it's very important for me to remember that it is only through a person's outward actions that I can judge what kind of character they have and how much (or how little) I should allow them into my lives.  I am not able to see into their minds, read their emotions (not to mention properly interpret them), or know what motivates them (nor would I always agree with the importance of that motivation).  Annah, my beautiful sister, when once I asked her about trying to decipher if someone is trustworthy or the measure of their faith, said to me , "Look at what their feet do."  You can never truly know someone else's priorities or motivations, but when it comes to your involvement with them, watch their feet.  In other words, what kind of relationships do they create?  Are they healthy ones or not?  How do they walk through this life?  What do they show you is important to them on a daily basis and is that the kind of person you want influencing you and surrounding you?  We hate to admit it but others DO effect us.  They inspire us, deflate us, and change us.  The strength of OUR character is often tested by others, and we sometimes only get to see how strong we are in our efforts to over come their influence.
Make no mistake, even if a person has good character, he or she is still human, will make mistakes, and will sometimes fail to "fix" a mistake they have made.  This is when we are asked to be forgiving towards them.  We are to love them anyway.  This does not however mean that we are to forget; it also doesn't mean that we have to continue an intimate relationship with them.  It IS, however, IMPERATIVE that we forgive them.  Otherwise we breed hate and resentment in our hearts and that, my friends, can then poison our own character.  Something to surely be avoided.
The Bible often refers to character as "fruit".  In fact in the NIV version it is mentioned over 150 times.  "It appears first in Genesis 1:11, the first book and chapter of the Old Testament, and its final occurrence is in Revelation 22:2, the last book and chapter of the New Testament." (Greg Johnson)  Greg states that in his findings if something is repeated frequently in The Bible, there is at least one important lesson to be learned from it.  I, also, have found this to be true.  I could go on and on about this subject, but when it comes to The Bible it's probably best to let it speak for itself.   
Matthew 7:16-20; By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Galatians 5:22-23; But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Matthew 12:33; Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  
Luke 6:43-45; No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Jesus Himself even said:
John 15:1-8; "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."  
The "vine" is our community in Christ and we are shown here that, if we leave Christ, we are not to survive, we will wither.  So when it comes to character (and fruit) I just need to keep my eye on Christ, to cling to the vine, to be as like Him as I can, and to use the Fruits of the Spirit ("love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control") to the absolute best of my ability.  This is the only true character that matters.

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