Thursday, February 8, 2018
Christian character does count . .
Christian character counts. It must be said again. Christian character counts. Whether or not you see any difference, Christian character counts. Whether or not you believe it is even noticed or generally ignored, Christian character counts. As we make our way into a new year fraught with the same old problems, the call to us who live from the baptismal font to the table by the calling of the Word: Christian character counts.
Virtue is not old fashioned or out of date or ineffectual. Virtue, Christian character, and the noble calling of our Christian lives matters. It matters whether we see it or not. If no one else is watching, God is. Part of the wonderful surprise of baptism and its life of faith flowing from that font is the realization that God is watching -- not only to condemn what is wrong but to look for what is good and right and holy. Sanctification is not some discipline that steals our joy and shackles our freedom but it is the joyful embrace of the values of the Kingdom and the full exercise of that wonderful gift of liberty -- including our release from the captivity of self-interest!
I spend a lot of digital ink on the idea that doctrine is important and that practices consistent with that doctrine are important. But Christian character is also important. In the home as husband and wife live together in the holy estate of marriage, Christian character supports, encourages, and brings wonderful joy to the fullness of their life together. As father and mother rejoice in the sacred trust of a child and seek to teach the faith by example as well as word, Christian character becomes the incubator of faith in the lives of their children. In the neighborhood and community, Christians lives not in hiding but holding up the light, high, so that it enlightens everyone. This happens not only in words of explicit witness but in lives of holy charity, honor, virtue, and holiness. In the workplace, we manifest the character of our faith by working to the glory of God, exhibiting the character of our Christian faith and identity even if we are limited by what our words can say about the Gospel. How we work as employees and how we lead as employers is as important to the Christian witness of our lives as the explicit witness to Jesus' incarnation, obedient life, life-giving death, and resurrection never to die again.
We Lutherans do not talk as much about sanctification as we ought. We sometimes give the false impression that Christian life is about the God who forgives and we who give Him something to forgive. While there is nothing we can do to cooperate in our salvation, in our sanctification the Holy Spirit does not take over our wills but teaches us to love what is holy and good and to seek after it, and, by the grace of God, to accomplish it, as the fruit of that justification and new life. So let me not get too far into 2018 without the reminder that Christian character counts. Walk worthy of the life that has been given you in your baptism and seek to be and do the things of God within the domain of your daily life. Fear not the judgment of others but neither despair of who you and what you can do. Christian character counts. In the home, in the neighborhood, in the workplace, in the community, and, yes, in the congregation. Christian character counts.