Preventing Character Collapse

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I love shortcuts. The fastest way to get home. The hot keys on my computer keyboard. Even pre-prepared food. If something can save me time and still be serviceable, count me in.

But in some cases, I end up spending more time correcting the mistakes I made in my rush to get it done because I didn’t have the patience to do it the right way.

That’s where I found myself yesterday afternoon when a home improvement project went awry. A shelving unit I put up in my garage was shaky. So, I screwed it into the dry wall. I even went the extra mile, using dry wall anchors. But how could I possibly have thought that one dry wall screw and anchor could keep a shelving unit attached to the wall when, with storage items placed on top of it, it weighed a couple hundred pounds?

The short answer: my desire for a shortcut.

When we’re looking for a shortcut, we’re looking for the appearance of a desired result, not necessarily the result itself. If it works out, we get lucky. But more often than not, it all comes crashing down – like my shelving unit nearly did yesterday before I fixed it like I should have when I first erected it.

As a follower of Jesus, it’s important to remember that being Christ-like isn’t simply about what we do and how we act toward others. Anyone can be nice and fake it. True Christ-like character happens when what we do and how we act toward others is a natural outflow of what’s deep in our hearts. And it isn’t something we attain through shortcuts. It’s often a long and painful process, full of mistakes and sharp learning curves.

We are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. @ 2 Corinthians 8:18-21 (NIV, emphasis mine)

The Apostle Paul took “pains to do what is right” in this story. Pains.

Developing Christ-like character happens when we get honest with ourselves. It’s often painful, both to do the right thing and to admit the reality of our hearts. Do we really want to endure the pain necessary to become more like Christ in the way we live? Or do we want others to think we’re Christ-like?

It’s always encouraging to hear someone tell you that they think your life reflects Christ. But I would rather know that what others see is a reflection of my heart for Christ, not mere mimicry of my Savior.

Food for Thought:

1. What painful lessons have you learned in developing character?

2. How do you know the difference between developing true Christ-like character and simple good behavior?

3. In what ways do you take pains to do the right thing? How does that make you feel after you take the time to do that?

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