People often baulk at teaching character because they think we are setting our kids up for salvation by good works. But good character won’t get you into heaven.
We are saved by the grace of God, the forgiveness of our sins because of the death of Jesus on the cross. There is nothing we can do that will get us any closer to a relationship with Jesus, or to heaven. If we accept what God has done for us and is offering us, then it is done, finished, we get to be with God forever. Before character training becomes a part of the Christian family we must know that our heart is right with God, that our eternal position has nothing to do with what we do.
But what is salvation without works, as James puts it. Once we are saved, out of adoration and commitment to God our heart response is to live as he would have us, to serve him in all we do, to learn his ways. But all that we do must start with loving, knowing, accepting Jesus. This is the issue that Jesus had with the Pharisees – they were good people, of good character, but they didn’t receive Jesus and they were without his life. The Pharisees followed the rules to become good, Jesus wanted them to follow him (as he said: I am the Way).
Good Character is a Moral Issue not Spiritual
I define character as the quality of our response to people and situations. We define good character by actions that line up with right values and we define bad character by actions consistent with wrong values. Character is the outworking of what we believe is right and wrong – this makes it a moral issue.
Each person has a moral capacity – that is, an ability to know right and wrong. We are not to confuse this with our spiritual capacity – an ability to know God. Whether you are a Christian or not, we all have both a moral and a spiritual capacity. The issue is – is that capacity being filled, used, taught, strengthened?
As a Christian our values, our morals (what we consider right or wrong) are based on our belief of Jesus. So though our character reflects our faith it is not our salvation. When we teach our children to do the right thing we are teaching their moral capacity, not their spiritual capacity. When we teach them why this is the right thing we are teaching their spiritual capacity – if we based right and wrong on the Word of God.
[Tweet “Character is not salvation by works, but rather a reflection of our faith.”]
But we always need Jesus
No matter how much we learn what is the right thing, and even why it is the right thing we will still fail at showing love, patience, and kindness (for example) because we are human and we will do wrong.
Instead of baulking at teaching our children how to respond in life, in a way that reflects their values, this is the key we should be teaching our children. Without Christ, we are sinful beings. With Christ we have the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in this life in ways that reflect him.
We still need to teach our kids true spiritual doctrine: Sin separates us from God. Jesus died to take away that sin. We can have a relationship with God without performing. We have the Holy Spirit to help us, teach us, guide us. God is a God of love, truth, mercy and grace.
This righteousness from God comes through faith
in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
There is no difference, for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God,
and are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Good character won’t get your to heaven, it won’t get you any closer to Jesus – but it will help you to respond to people and life here on earth in a way that is true to your values.
[Tweet “Good character won’t get you to heaven but it will help you respond to life.”]
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Our Personality does not Excuse us from Doing the Right Thing: Jesus’ command to love God and love others was not limited to particular personality traits; it was a command for us all.
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Is Good Character at the Wrong Time Still Good Character? Something to think about as we learn more about character in our own life, and in our kids’ lives. Remembering that character is doing the right thing at the right time.
Over to you:
Have you made this distinction between character and salvation? Does it change how you teach your kids?