Romans 5:3-5 “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Most of us would agree this sounds about right. Although it’s difficult to realize, and receive hope from these words while we’re actually suffering. I believe we are called to bring these words TO each other in suffering. Not as a magic “salve” that will make suffering lessen or cease, but more of a statement of Love and Truth straight from the Word of God that accomplishes more than we might realize.
But beyond receiving these words of Hope in the midst of suffering, comes the topic of “character” that has become a rarity these days. Even without reading a book on the topic, most of us can see the vacuum here. Some raise children who “follow all the rules”, and others children who “live genuinely”, both viewing their path as one that is inherently and ultimately “good” in it’s process and goal.
But what of the situations for which we haven’t spelled out any rules? The increasing amount of what we reflexively label “gray areas” are growing these days. Or what about the times when I “genuinely” desire to do something that would not be healthy or life-affirming? There must be something beyond rule following and “genuine existence” that offers something here.
That “thing” is character. Specifically, “Christian” character. Not that simply following/growing in character itself is a bad thing. As seen here, and other places like it, a lot of positive things can come from this. But with what goal? To someone who seems to be doing just fine in this life especially, and gets along well with others….what purpose would there be to exercising and strengthening these abilities? Without Christ, the goals of “greatest good for the most people” and “happiness” become very vague debates on who’s definition of good we’re using, and the value of one life over another.
Our world doesn’t need more people who will follow the rules and enforce them. We aren’t in need of more people who are “freed from rules” and can live life more “authentically/romantically” because of that freedom. We need followers of Christ who will develop the discipline and the nature of Christian Character…and in so bring God’s solid Hope for tomorrow into the lives of others, and creation…