Character and self-control: More thoughts

After I published previously, I was able to do more thinking on my bike ride home. I know one of my weaknesses as a writer is that I make long mental leaps between points that tends to leave readers mystified. Sorry.

Part of what I wanted to say yesterday is that if character is who we are when no one sees us, then, looking at just our sinful thoughts alone, we all fail miserably. Our minds are filled with good and bad. Some of us in equal proportions and some more good, but all of us have evil within us. Even God tells us this through his prophet Jeremiah. The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. 1 Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

But Jesus himself points out that there are good and noble hearts in his parable of the soils. Regarding the soil that enables the seed to produce a hundred fold he says, But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. NKJV Luke 8:15

I don't think there is a contradiction here, but a discrimination of levels. At our core, we are sinful. But how we respond to our sinfulness and the sin around us begins to separate the good from the bad hearts. How do good hearts respond? I think Jesus addresses this in his Beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3-11

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.

Hearts that Jesus commends are the ones that recognize their poverty of spirit, regret and weep over sinfulness, have humility, who fast for what's right either voluntarily or involuntarily, who are merciful because of their humility, who seek purity in themselves, who pursue reconciliation, who withstand trial that they could easily avoid.

So what is character? I still think it depends a great deal on perspective. I think it depends on self-control. I think it depends on a commitment to that which is right no matter how hard keeping that commitment gets. Sometimes circumstances around us make that commitment hard. But other times it's difficult because our own selfish wickedness beckons us.

We find strength by focusing on others, loving them as ourselves, and by focusing on God, loving him with all of our being. Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Perhaps character strongly depends on love.


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