- What constitutes good character? … that which is defined by God’s character, not self-determined
This point is essential but not enough to help us determine if character education is good. We must also ask:
- How do we acquire these character traits?
- What is the ultimate purpose in developing good character?
In answering the question, How do we acquire these character traits?, turn to 2 Peter 1:3-8.
1) We are inadequate to live up to the standard of who God is. We are to be holy as He is holy. We are to love as He loves. Yet, we will never develop that extent of quality of character within ourselves.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3)
Character education must emphasize the role and work of the Spirit in making it happen. God has given believers the Holy Spirit to live within them so they have the power to become who He has called them to be in Christ Jesus.
—- If the plan for character education is based on self-effort, reconsider. Only the Holy Spirit can develop true Christ-likeness in us.
2) It all begins with knowing God. Don’t expect people without a relationship with God through Christ, resulting in the indwelling of the Spirit, to have a moral compass.
“through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3)
Life in Christ is based on grace and relationship, not performance. Out of that, all else flows.
—- If a plan for character education doesn’t emphasize getting to know God, it is merely a humanistic, performance-based effort.
3) It continues with knowing God. Don’t expect believers who remain spiritual babes to have Christ-like character.
“make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; … self-control … perseverance … godliness … brotherly kindness … love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7)
Character development is a growth process. Remember, though we are to “make every effort to add” these traits it is HIS divine power that makes it happen (2 Pet. 1:3). — “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)
Just prior to writing those words, Peter warned, “be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.” Growing in our relationship with Him is our safeguard for maintaining Christ-like character and not being drawn into the ways of the world.
—- If a plan for character education is a short term effort, it will likely produce short term results. Becoming Christ-like is a life-time process of becoming more and more like Him as we grab hold of His grace and power.
Performance-based character development can become . . .
- mere external conformity which can change with a different set of circumstance
- mere self-improvement which is reliant on enough will-power and stamina to keep at it
Often this base for character education leads to pride or endless guilt. And, it can confuse the issue of salvation by grace.
Grace-based character development, on the other hand, that grows out of a relationship with God wherein one is divinely empowered leads to . . .
- change from the inside out
- transformation, not merely building on strengths and fixing what is wrong
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ … (Titus 2:11-13)