A strong character, above any suspicion, is the greatest quality any man can possess.
Character must not be confounded with reputation. Character is what a man is. Reputation is what people think of him. Character is the true, stable, and enduring quality of a man. the reputation of a man is like his shadow; it sometimes follows and sometimes precedes him; it is sometimes longer and sometimes shorter than himself.
Character is indispensable. Professor Blaikie of the University of Edinburgh more than half a century ago, addressing a class of young men said, “Money is not needful, power is not needful, cleverness is not needful, fame is not needful, liberty is not needful, even health is not needful, but character alone.”
Character is not inherited, nor conferred. It is made. Jesus has a peerless character. E. S. Brightman in “Moral Laws” said, “in Jesus, the idea of personality had its highest historical illustration.” Jesus Christ is the faultless exemplar of virtue, a self-determining will, perfectly bent on perfect ends. This was the power of His influence.
Jesus did not have wealth, but He had power. He did not have a position conferred by the voice of the people, but He influenced men as no other. The power of His life was inseparable from the strength of His character.
This is what placed Him at the head of His contemporaries. Because of the unquestioned quality of character, He has received the homage of men through the centuries. There is no situation in life where Jesus could not be your example and guide.
He taught truthfulness in speech and life. The cross was a vivid enactment of self-denying love. I quote Fodkas-Jackson who relates this truth to human experience in a very effective way. “The cross teaches the spirit of genuine self-sacrifice. All genuine nobility of character springs from self-oblivion, and self-oblivion is the spirit of sacrifice. The toil of the mission, the zeal of the Apostle, the meekness of endurance, the heroism of action, the courage of martyrdom—all these are fruits and tokens of the cross. It is the source of their energy and the rule of their fulfillment.”
The preaching of the cross, received and personally applied, will cause us to live above the spirit of the world—to “overcome the world.” It will subdue the pride of philosophy and tame the fire of lust.
The true disciple of Christ is born of His Spirit and by the seed of God’s Word. The center of his life and the motivating factor is no longer self, in the sense of personal prestige, nor in the world, to be successful in the eyes of the world; but it is in the crucified and risen Christ.
Not an outward conformity to stipulated standards. Christ is the object of our love. He stands as leader to challenge by example. Christ at the same time becomes a new source of power available to reinforce our old moral inabilities. Because virtue still flows out of the risen Christ a new moral achievement is possible. “He remains the central and renewing principle of the ethical life, the power which conforms human nature to the Divine Law. Christian living centres in his personal presence. He constantly communicates new life to His followers.”—C. Henry
Louis XIV ruled large France, but he could not conquer little Holland. He wondered why, so inquired of Colbert his minister, who replied, “Because, sir, the greatness of a country does not depend upon the extent of its territory, but on the character of its people.”
The effectiveness and success of the Christian witness of the Organization to which we belong depends on the character of its ministers and people.