Third, my father reminded us to guard our character when our brothers and sisters in Christ push us to the limit.
Christian character is composed of moral and ethical convictions that reveal the true nature of our spiritual commitment. It prompts us to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not it is the easy thing, and guards our hearts against the wrong thing when we are tested.
If you have ever failed the test, don’t worry. There is a difference between acting “out of character” and “losing our character.” Both are undesirable, but since we are human we aren’t always going to be perfect representatives of Christ. In a moment of frustration we may lash out at those who have hurt us, but because we don’t want to dishonor Christ or hurt His Bride we step back into character through a process of reflection and repentance. However, should we lose our character we will no longer care how our behavior hurts others or the name of Christ.
One night my father came home from a church elder’s meeting disappointed in himself. In a moment of anger he had called one of his elders a “bozo.” The dictionary defines a bozo as “a fellow, especially a big, strong, stupid fellow.” As soon as the word came out of my father’s mouth he was sorry and he apologized on the spot. When he told us about the incident later, he wasn’t arrogant or combative, but humbled and remorseful. Even though the elders in the room, including the one who made him angry took things in stride, it bothered my father to think he had acted out of character. He used his mistake as an opportunity to remind us we all lose our cool, but that difficult circumstances never excuse bad behavior.
How we treat the Bride of Christ in our homes matters. Every time we abuse her with our words or actions we diminish her glory in the eyes of the people we love most. When unbelievers visit our home and hear us criticize our church, we give them more reasons to resist the gospel. And our family’s attitude isn’t confined to the house we call home. For instance, a Christian family that comes to worship with a chip on its shoulder will steal everyone else’s joy. Yet, the one that comes, having taken up its cross, builds up the body.
Consider these thoughts with all urgency. Once opinions are formed in the hearts and minds of those closest to us, they are difficult to remove. If they are hurtful opinions the long walk can be very miserable indeed.