September 27, 2011 by Chris French
Have you ever seen a beautiful flower and bent down to smell it only to have its pungent fragrance fill your nose? Imagine biting into the perfect red apple only to find it rotten on the inside. The flower and the fruit wore a disguise to cover their ugliness. Have you ever seen Dorian Gray? He’s a handsome man, that is, until he looks into his portrait. Then you see his true self! It’s deformed and decaying.
The word Paul uses for goodness in Galatians 5.22 is exactly the opposite of these ideas. This word describes someone whose character is noble and because they have this character it leads them to virtuous actions. In Matthew 15.18 Jesus would put it like this, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks”. Whatever we have built on the inside will show up in our actions. Let’s build a Godly character so His actions will flow out of us.
The first character building block is integrity. In the first century there were some loop holes one could use when swearing. Oaths were more binding the closer they related to God’s Name, but the less the oath had to do with God’s Name the less binding the oath. Jesus condemns this practice in Matthew 5.33-37. When you say you’ll do something do it! “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I build my character by keeping my word, not just in the things that I say, but also in my faith. I can’t say that I belong to Christ yet still belong to the world. Integrity is like water, it fills all the crevices. If effects every part of life and it builds my character. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (Proverbs 11.3)
Suffering also seems to build character in the sense that when our suffering is bad enough we have to turn it over. This humility is a character building stone. Solomon said, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127.1) The reality is that without the Lord we’re incapable of very much. Once we realize that it’s through His power that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17.28) our character is well on its way to being built. When was the last time you realized this? Are you a person of integrity? How is your character? Are you good?