“It doesn’t matter!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Once again, we’re in the midst of a campaign season. Already, I’ve heard spokesmen and women saying that character doesn’t matter. Several months ago, one of those campaigning for the highest office in the country said, “What does it matter now?” The statement was made in response to a question concerning what really happened during an attack on one of our embassies. We are told it’s not appropriate to look into someone’s past to determine how he or she might act in the future.
God said that He will judge those outside, 1Corinthians 5:13. The church must be concerned with judging ourselves. A Christian’s character is of great importance for the purity of the witness of the church. Character does matter.
The Bible gives the means by which we can know someone’s character. We can gain information from a person’s past to help predict his actions in the future. Of course, there are no guarantees. We are not omniscient. Yet, we can make reasonable decisions concerning a person’s character.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is one clear place of Scripture in which discerning a person’s character is given. The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew Chapters 5 through 7. The entire sermon was a teaching that Jesus gave to His disciples. Matthew set the context on a mountainside. Jesus saw the crowds that were following Him and He went up on the mountain and then He sat down. Matthew 5:2, “And he opened his mouth and taught them (his disciples)…”
This sermon was given by Jesus to describe His ethic or practice. In other words, Jesus laid out the standard of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached. The effect of His Sermon drives those who have been born again to their knees. We who profess the name of Christ do so by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God in order to live the Christian Life. Jesus was the only one who actually lived in accordance with His sermon.
The issue of character is near the close of Jesus’ sermon. Jesus called the evidence of character a person’s fruits. He said that there would be false prophets. He said that these false prophets would look and dress like sheep but would actually be wolves. These wolves would seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God seek to destroy God’s people.
The Bible is written to believers but applies to all people. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all whether or not it is believed. Jesus declared a universal truth concerning discerning another’s character and genuineness. Character is recognizable no matter what the circumstance. The character of an individual is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance or popularity. Character can be assessed by looking at past behavior. In order to recognize a man or woman of character it is necessary to study his or her past behavior. A man’s past actions are his “fruits.”
False people have “rotten fruit” seen by past actions. Sometimes these false people actually say things that might be true. They may be lifted up by those who have ulterior motives. Jesus said look at what they have produced before determining their genuineness.
We need leaders who are genuine. We need to look back on a man or woman’s life before we pledge our support. This principle of looking at a person’s fruits applies not only to our civil government but to all areas of life in which we must select leaders. Certainly, this evaluation of character is critical in the church.
We can complain about those in leadership who display little or no character. We can try to outdo the experts who continue to put forth “made-up” leaders designed to attract the uninformed. Or, we can demand honesty from our leaders. Look for outlets that are willing to give accurate information about a prospective leader’s past. As Jesus instructed His disciples, look to their fruits. “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”