So far, we have seen that developing Christian character begins with consecration. God sets us apart and we set ourselves apart for God. Next, because we have set our lives apart for God, we choose to cooperate with what He is doing in our lives. That’s obedience that happens because we have a new perspective on life, realizing that God’s way of changing our lives is better than our own way. There is a fascinating line in the old hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.
Hast thou not seen
How thy desires all have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
God’s plan for our lives includes the best options for living a faithful and fulfilled life.
Character may be, as some have said, who or what you are when no one is looking. But character is developed not merely in private. Character is developed in the marketplace, the workplace, the home. The Bible speaks to this reality often. For example:
· Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
· A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5
Some say that they don’t know where they are to serve in the church. They don’t know what their spiritual gift is. There are great resources to help with both of those dilemmas, but one of the best ways to find where you fit is to serve somewhere. If you are open to God’s leadership, you will find where you serve best by serving in humility.
Similarly, character is developed by participating with others in doing life together. It’s in the ebb and flow of life that we are challenged and stretched by and with others.
Collaboration is simply working together. Webster defines collaboration as “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” For our discussion, I will add one word—intellectual and spiritual. I see at least three areas where collaboration helps us develop Christian character.
1. Ministry is not just for “professional” clergy. We are all called to be ministers to each other and within the overall ministry of our local church. By serving side by side and shoulder to shoulder we learn Christlikeness because of the challenges of getting along with co-workers and watching how others handle situations better than we do. Character is strengthened in collaborative ministry.
2. Restoration is vital to growth. We all stumble from time to time. Some of us have gone way off the track. We need to know someone has our back. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Galatians 6:1 (NASB) This verse implies that restoration is important for both the one being restored and for the restorer. Character is developed in the way we handle restoration—with humility. It takes humility to submit to restoration when we have fallen. It takes humility to restore someone who has fallen without being judgmental or Pharisaical.
3. Community has become a catchword in our society and churches have adopted it as well. We used to call it “fellowship,” but community may communicate with our age better. Community describes a group of people with common interests and goals. Within the Body of Christ, we are bound together by the Spirit who inhabits us and Jesus, to whom we submit as Lord. In working together toward common goals and interests with the motive of pleasing God, we slowly develop character that changes us. The older word “fellowship” (koinonia) has been defined as “two fellows in the same ship.” That depiction might work well for community, as well. We are in this together. Galatians 6:1 was referenced in number two above. Verse 2 is just at important: “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Community involves being together in a unified purpose, but also in having fun, sharing burdens, and recognizing the worth of everyone in Christ. Community is caring. Caring helps to take the focus off us. That helps us becomes less self-absorbed. That opens the door to developing the character of Christ, who was “gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) Paul said it this way: “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” Romans 12:16
Christian character is summed up by being like Jesus. That’s healthy for us and critical for those around us. It’s also pleasing to God. Through consecration, cooperation, and collaboration we can develop Christian character. It’s not instant. It takes a lifetime, but we must start sometime. Maybe today. The place to start is with humility.