After 50 or so years I have learned a couple of things.  One of them is this.  You can tell the character of a person by who they are when no one is looking.  Who they are when they don’t need anything from you. Character is who we are as a person and it influences the decisions that we make in life.  It is also a strong indicator of what we believe.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”
Abigail Van Buren

Coming from a sales perspective, people will sell you all kind of things.  Ideas, doctrine, philosophy, theology, programmes and quick fixes.  There are a lot of things that we can build our lives on and put our trust in.  The greatest legacy we can leave our children and grandchildren is not money or fame, it is character.  Character is built on goodness, integrity, kindness, faithfulness, honesty etc..

Spending most of my life in the institutionalised church environment,  I learned a lot about scripture, doctrine, 5 step programmes, volunteers, serving, giving etc..  In other words, a lot about how to belong in a church environment, about how to ‘DO’ church. I didn’t learn that much about character.  How to ‘BE’.    Now in my latter years I realise that the most important teachings of Jesus is about fruit.  What you produce.  It is about who you are when no one is looking.  It is about what you are feeding to other people.

  • How do you taste?
  • How do people experience you?
  • How do you treat the sales lady at the grocery store?
  • How do you speak to your neighbour?
  • How do you live alongside and support those who are weak or disabled?
  • How do you help the poor the widow the marginalised?

Jesus said:  Man looks on the outward appearances but He looks on the heart.

This is what He is saying: “I am more concerned with who you are inside?  What is the condition of your heart?  It means more to me that you are kind, loving and gracious than what job you hold, what church you attend or what doctrine you subscribe to”.

Character is something that is intrinsically within a person and is above race, religion, age or gender, and even education and one’s personality.

“In temper he was Earnest, yet controlled, frank, yet sufficiently guarded, patient, yet energetic, forgiving, yet just to himself; generous yet firm.” 

J. T. Duryea

“His conscience was the strongest element of his nature.  His affections were tender & warm. His whole nature was simple and sincere – he was pure, and then was himself.” 

J. T. Duryea

Attorney Samuel C. Parks wrote “that for a man who was for the quarter of a century both a lawyer & a politician he was the most honest man I ever knew. He was not only morally honest but intellectually so – he could not reason falsely – if he attempted it he failed”.

These  quotes are describing President Abraham Lincoln.  This was a man who was known for his good character.  Here was a person you could trust, who was steady, reliable, fair and just.

Let me ask you this: If your work colleagues, your neighbours,  your school mates, your pub mates, your family and extended families were asked to describe YOU, as these people have done about Abraham Lincoln, what would they say?

We are told to be imitators of Christ.  Who was above all:  loving, kind, just, compassionate, accepting, wise, peaceful, gentle, good, meek, even-tempered, honest, merciful, gracious and I could go on.  Surely if we are followers of Jesus Christ, this is the type of people that we should be.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
John Wooden

Cherry Tree

You know a tree by its fruit right?  Different kinds of fruit trees can quickly be identified by examining their fruit.  If it’s an apple tree, you should get apples.   Jesus says that this is the way that we are to determine people.  He gave us some wise instruction:  ‘By their fruits you will know them’.

Matthew 7:15-20 MSG

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.

I have a potted lemon tree on my front balcony that I have had for several years. It has vigorous growth, looks amazing, is in a stunning pot,  but it does not produce any lemons.  It is the most frustrating thing ever.   Do you know people like this?  They look good, they seem to be doing the right things but they don’t actually produce anything good.  They don’t GIVE.  They don’t contribute.  They take the watering, they take the feeding, they love the sun and the warmth but they don’t produce anything.  They don’t contribute.

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In Luke 12 Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree.  He says this.  A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, for three years he came to this fig tree to get fruit but it never had any.   He tells the farmer to cut it down.  The farmer says to give it one more year, if after fertilising it and caring for it for another year it does not produce fruit, he will cut it down.

Buddy Stallings puts it this way:

‘In Palestine a fig tree was particularly important. In several places in Hebrew scripture the health of all of Israel was symbolized by how fruitful or not the fig tree was. Jesus hearers no doubt knew of this literary reference, and the mention of a fig tree would have immediately caught their attention. Over the years I have taken some comfort from the Gardener’s suggestion that the fig tree be given another chance, another year before being chopped down, as further evidence of the wideness of God’s mercy.

But recently reading Rohr’s new book, I came upon a new insight. The overriding point of the book is to differentiate between the True Self and the False Self. Rohr claims, as others have, that our True Self comes from God, is given to us and resides with us forever.

He refers to it as an “internal humming reverence that finally must be honored.”

The False Self is our creation, our persona, the sense of self we develop to meet the world in the way we think the world desires us to be. It is the part of us that wants to be noticed; it is always looking to be somewhere and some thing other than what it is, bending in the breeze of every fad or fashion.

A fig tree living as an authentic fig tree is one that is prolifically fertile. The True Self of the fig tree is to abundantly produce fruit;  it is the tree’s reason for being, its joy, and its purpose. In the parable the fig tree, which is not producing, is living some version of the False Self, something other than for what it was created, for true fig trees produce abundantly’.

 

Jesus teachings show us that He wants us to be our true self, to have good character to produce good fruit.  Fruitfulness, peace, self-awareness, rest, wholeness and demonstrations of loving kindness to those around us is what Jesus desires for us.   He wants us to be people of good character, who produce good fruit.   He is not interested in our dogma, doctrine, rules and regulations around ‘doing’ church.  He is VERY interested in us ‘being’ his presence or being ‘like him’ within our communities.  He cares deeply for people and his creation and he wants us to care also.

This flies in the face of a lot of the behaviour that we see demonstrated today toward those who are different to us.  To homosexuals, to refugees, to the downtrodden, disabled, homeless, drunkard and the drug addict.  What is our true character toward these who Jesus calls the least.  He said:  whatever you do to the least of these you do to me.

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Are we loving?  Are we kind?  Are we inclusive?  Are we merciful and understanding?  Do we contribute and support in practical ways?  Are we nourishing and feeding those around us and those who we intersect with?

These are the true tests of good character.  This is the true litmus test of a Christ follower.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Jn 13:34

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Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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4 Comments on “Character: Who Are You When No-one is Looking?

  1. Reblogged this on New Dawn and commented:
    “Are we loving?  Are we kind?  Are we inclusive?  Are we merciful and understanding?  Do we contribute and support in practical ways?  Are we nourishing and feeding those around us and those who we intersect with? These are the true tests of good character.  This is the true litmus test of a Christ follower.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One danger the Church has always faced is confusing charisma with character. Appointing people to leadership because of their charisma always leads to unhappiness.

    Liked by 1 person

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