My dad is a coach. So, the definition I always heard growing up is, “Character is who you are when nobody is looking.” I still think that one holds up pretty well!

The Oxford Dictionary says character is, “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” I would add a little texture that includes character as the sum total of virtues, values, principles and motives that govern who you are.

The Greek roots of the word help us in our understanding of Christian character. The word “character” χαρακτήρ was a word for a sculptor’s tool, it means in essence “to chisel.” Eventually the word came to mean “that which is cut in, marked, or engraved,” and soon began to be broadened to include the act of imprinting or engraving an image. When something was stamped into coins the character was, the image of any person or thing, the marked likeness which was a precise reproduction in every respect.

This Greek word is used once in New Testament in reference to Christ who was the express image of the Father. Hebrews 1:3 states,

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Just as Christ was fashioned according to the image and character of the Father, every Christian is to be fashioned according to the image and character of the Son. This conformity to the ways and teachings and qualities of Jesus is what separates Christian character from mere civility or secular morality. It is also what separates the Christian leader from his/her secular counterpart.

Christian character is being conformed to the Image of Jesus. Romans 8:29 says it this way,

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

So, character is of central importance to the Christian leader by its very definition, It represents more than just an optional add-on approach to leadership, it is built into our very identity as followers of Jesus.


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