In a previous post I posed three questions to be asked in order to determine if character education is a good thing.
1) What constitutes good character?
2) How do we acquire these character traits?
3) What is the ultimate purpose in developing good character?
Let’s begin by asking, What constitutes good character?
2 Peter 1:3-9 lists faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. We find some similarities in this list to those provided in Galations 5:22-23 — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 1 Timothy 6:11 exhorts us to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” And, Colossians 3:12-14 describes the character of our new life in contrast to the old which is to be put off or gotten rid of — “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Notice how LOVE is a common thread in all of these lists. 2 Peter 1 puts love as the ultimate quality to which our growth should take us. Galatians 5 begins its list with love. Colossians 3 raises love above all other virtues. This should not be surprising since Jesus identified love as the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:37-40).
—— If a trait doesn’t grow out of, look like, and result in love, you had better examine your list of traits. As Colossians 3:14 explains why. Love is what binds all the other traits “together in perfect unity.”
None of these lists are identical. Perhaps we do not have one comprehensive list because God is so great and can’t be contained in a single list of traits. Yes, God … His character … is the standard for what constitutes good character.
—— Beware of character education based on any ethical or moral code that is self-determined or governed by society. It is doomed for failure as “there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12). This kind of character will easily lead to justification or rationalization as it becomes relative to the situation, constantly changing to fit the circumstances.
As we see in 2 Peter 1, God wants us to “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” We have a God whose character does not change. And so, we are always honest because our God is truth. We remain pure because our God is holy. We always extend compassion and kindness because our God is love.
—— If your character education is not based on the character of God, you have some major problems.