Friday, November 04, 2016

Christian Character Matters

On the west side of Michigan, Lake Michigan shoreline

In After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters., N. T. Wright says, "The central thing that is supposed to happen "after you believe" is the transformation of character." This is the Galatians 4:19 thing - that Christ be formed in you. Or, as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:12 - "We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." This formation, the development of Christ-character in you, is our calling. It happens as we indwell Christ.

The core of our own character formation into Jesus-likeness is love. Love is "the greatest of these" core virtues. We may disagree with others, but we must never cease loving them. Jesus loved those he disagreed with so much that he died for them. We are to even love our enemies, in spite of our opposing views. Anything less than this and you have left Jesus.

What will that character formation look like? Because it comes from attachment to Christ, it therefore looks like Christ. Christ gives you, forms you, meta-morphs you into one who loves as Christ loves.

Wright's example is that of Sully Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who landed a disabled passenger jet in the Hudson River and saved 155 lives. The character of a pilot had been formed in him. Which means he no longer needed to wear a wristband that asked, "What Would a Pilot Do?" (WWPD) Rather, "the skills and ability ran right through him, top to toe." 

Wright: "The key to it all is that the Christian vision of character that has become second nature is precisely all about discovering what it means to be human - human in a way that most of us never imagine."

Regarding what Captain Sullenberger did, "virtue is what happens when wise and courageous choices have become "second nature." Not "first nature," as though they happened "naturally." Like an acquired taste, such choices and actions, which started off being practiced with difficulty, ended up being "second nature."

For Wright, our "first nature" is our subhumanity. The "second nature" Christ wants to form in us is his nature, which is true humanity. Wright's book develops how this happens.

What shall I do about this? I must look at my own self, and focus on my own change. I am praying to be transformed into someone who is more like Jesus, and loves their enemies so much they would even die for them.

We can and must speak the truth, but it must always be done in love.