I had a conversation last week in which I realised how much the way we understand ‘character’ has shifted in our culture and how at odds it now is with a biblical understanding.
In a biblical worldview character is the habit of acting and reacting in a godly way. It is the product of walking with God over a period of time and repeatedly responding in godly ways. It is often the product of suffering.’We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’ (Romans 5:3-4)
In our culture, by contrast, character has come to be virtually synonymous with personality. My character is the combination of idiosyncrasies that mark me out as different from other people. We used to say ‘He is a man of good character’ meaning he is a man of integrity and generosity. Now we say ‘He is a character’ meaning he is an eccentric, a bit different.
The contrast becomes even more stark when we realize that modern character is achieved through self-expression and expressed in self-fulfilment while biblical character is achieved through self-denial and expressed in self-sacrifice.