Character the Christian Family Likeness

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1 Character the Christian Family Likeness Copyright 2007 by Elizabeth L. Hamilton Best-selling author of the Character-in-Action books Character Coach / Author Co-creator of Character-in-Action.com Family members bear a likeness to one another. They have similarities. There is a resemblance among them. This resemblance may or may not be visible at first glance, but the better you get to know members of a given family, the more likely it is that you will see a family likeness. You will begin to make observations such as, Samuel got his father s chin, didn t he? Natural-born Children Most people agree that every natural-born child in a family bears a family likeness. Often, that likeness is clearly visible in facial features and physical build. Genetically, the children show that they are offspring of the same parents. If the likeness is not so obvious in physical features, it will appear in actions and speech patterns. In cases where those, too, are less clear, the family likeness is evident in the DNA. I grew up in a family of five children: four boys and one girl. We had clear physical differences, but people were always able to tell that we were of the same parents. There were blue eyes and brown eyes. Some of us grew beyond 6 in height while others stopped at 5 6, but we all bore the family likeness. If there had been any doubt that we were all of the same family, simple DNA tests would have linked us. But what about adopted children? That s a different matter, isn t it?

2 Adopted Children Not at all. Adopted children bear a likeness to the adoptive family. This likeness is not visible in DNA tests. It is not visible in nose, cheekbones, eyes, and hair, but the discerning person can clearly see it. My husband and I have an adopted daughter and a natural-born son. Our adopted daughter is half-japanese adopted while we were missionaries in Japan. I was 4 months pregnant with our son when she was born, and her mother asked that missionary parents be found for her. We were delighted to become those parents, and soon had near-twins who were exactly 5 months apart in age. Before either baby had reached the first birthday, we returned to the U.S., visiting churches that supported our work. I took both babies into a church nursery one Sunday, and noticed a stranger watching them. Before long, she commented that she had heard one of our children was adopted. It s the little boy, isn t it? she asked. Because the little girl looks exactly like you. I was delighted! She saw a family likeness! Our adopted daughter mirrored my brown hair and brown eyes. Our natural-born son had very light blond hair and very blue eyes. As our daughter grew, she retained her brown hair and brown eyes. The eyes developed a slightly almond shape, though, and her nose was much smaller than mine. Other physical differences appeared. She did not bear an obvious family likeness. She did, however, develop a different kind of family likeness. She began to talk as we talked using an accent developed from living in a variety of geographical areas. She began to walk as I walk, unconsciously mimicking her mother. She used the same colloquialisms my husband and I used. She reacted to situations in the same ways we reacted. She had taken on the family likeness in her actions. People noticed it. People commented on it. There is always a family likeness. Whether children are natural-born or adopted, the closeness of family ties creates similarities among family members. The Christian Family The Christian family is made up of our Heavenly Father, His natural-born Son, Jesus Christ, and we who are adopted children. It is as though we all have the same last name. Just as members of earthly families bear a family likeness, so do members of the Christian family. Everyone who is a true member of this family bears a likeness to the Father. Those who do not honestly bear the family name Christian do not bear a likeness to the Father. Character is part of the Christian family likeness. I m speaking of authentic character when I say that. I m speaking of Christian character traits. In our study concerning the list of Christian character traits, we stated, God's Word provides moral absolutes, and a list of Christian character traits must rest solidly on them. Why is that? Why are authentic, Christian character traits so strongly linked to God s Word?

3 I believe it is because Christian character traits are among the distinguishing traits of Almighty God. God s Word gives us a picture of God. It shows us that He possesses in perfection every Christian character trait. He makes each one an absolute. The Bible says about God s character: God is LOVE. (I John 4:8) God is COMPASSIONATE. (Psalm 116:5) God is FAITHFUL. (I Corinthians 1:9) God is INTEGRITY. (Mark 12:29) God IS TRUE. (I John 5:20) God is a God of PEACE. (I Corinthians 14:33) That is only half a dozen of the many attributes of God presented in Scripture. Each one helps us see what God is. Each one sets out a quality that is true of our Heavenly Father. It shows us what the Father of the Christian family is. This being what God is, His children should bear a likeness to the Father. The traits that characterize Him should, as much as is possible, characterize His children. Character authentic character should be the family likeness that the world sees in Christians. Character that is based on the absolutes of God s Word should be exercised by every member of the Christian family. Let s look at just a few traits to understand more fully what this means. LOVE Consider the Christian character trait Love. Love is conspicuously absent from most secular character trait lists. In the United States, the popular Six Pillars of Character makes no mention of it at all. Even in sub-points that Character Counts lists under their Six Pillars of Character, the absence of Love is glaring. They simply do not consider love a character trait. The absence of love is a clear indication that one is not a member of the Christian family. God IS love, and tells His children that they are to exercise love. Who are the children of God s family to love? God Himself (Matthew 22:37) our neighbors (Matthew 22:39) our enemies (Luke 6:27) one another (John 13:34) In John 8:42, Jesus shows that a family likeness is expected when he says, "If God were your Father, you would love Me. God states that love is a distinguishing family trait. The absence of love shows a family likeness to the devil. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (I John 3:10) The presence of love shows a family likeness to God.

4 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (! John 4:7 and 8) Love is a character trait exercised by EVERY child within the Christian family. What kind of love? LOVE IS the quality of knowing what is best for the objects of our love, and taking action to do what is best for them. When children of God love God, they study His Word so they will know what He perceives to be best for His kingdom. Then they take action to do what is best for God rather than what they perceive to be best for self. When children of God love Jesus, their neighbors, enemies, and one another, they consider what is best for each of those, and then take action to do what is best for them rather than what is best for self. The exercise of authentic love shows the likeness to God s family. COMPASSION Compassion is another Christian character trait that shows the family likeness. I am not saying that those who are not of the family of God never show compassion. I will say, however, that they cannot show the compassion that is a reflection of who God is. They cannot mirror God s compassion and thus establish family likeness. True compassion is a distinguishing trait of all who are truly a part of the Christian family. In exercising it, God s children reflect God s compassion. They bear the family likeness. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14) "But if you had known what this means, `I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. (Matthew 12:7) So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; (Colossians 3:12) But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (I John 3:17) When non-christians use the word compassion, they often equate it with the word caring. They define it as helping needy people; forgiving people who ve done something to you; being kind to other people, showing that you care about others, or even showing gratitude. While compassion may include some of these, it does not include all and goes far beyond many. It is quite possible to show kindness to others without exercising compassion. Compassion may involve forgiving someone, but forgiveness itself is not compassion. Gratitude may or may not be involved when we exercise compassion. Many help needy people without exercising an ounce of compassion!

5 COMPASSION IS the quality of knowing how another feels about his or her situation, identifying personally with those feelings, and taking action to improve that person s situation OR his or her feelings about the situation. When children of God love God, they study His Word so they will know how He exercises compassion. There are many, many instances presented in God s Word. His children study these, and then take action to mimic God s described actions in meeting the felt needs of people. They do not try to imagine what God or Jesus would do. They study the Word until they know what God or Jesus would do. Then they do likewise. The exercise of authentic compassion shows the likeness to God s family. HONESTY Honesty is a strong indicator of family connection. God says that those who do not exercise this character trait belong to a different family. They show a family likeness to the devil. "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44) God is true. He is purely and totally honest. He never tries in any way, for even a moment, to deceive anyone. He never tells a white lie or a good lie in order to make things go well. He never acts in a way that he hopes might be misinterpreted in order to deceive. He speaks and acts with perfect, complete truth. God tells us clearly that we are to exercise the same kind of honesty. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25) The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; (I John 2:4) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16) Our exercise of authentic honesty shows that we are members of God s family. Our honesty must bear a resemblance to God s honesty as surely as my nose bears a resemblance to my father s nose. In today s society, many have a warped understanding of honesty. They believe that it is often all right to say something you know to be a lie. Yes, often! They may not say that. They may say that you should never lie. In practice, however, they believe lies are often better than the truth. Examples? Lying in answer to the question, What do you think of my hair style, my shirt, or my approach to the assigned project? Lying to avoid attendance at a meeting or party you should attend. Lying to avoid going to the door or answering a phone call when you don t want to speak to the person at the door or on the phone. The list is very long, and many people think such failure to exercise honesty is acceptable. They soothe their consciences by calling them white lies or good lies or tact. A member of the Christian family does none of these. He or she exercises authentic honesty.

6 HONESTY IS the quality of knowing what is true, and taking action to be sure that you convey in words and actions nothing more or less than that. Those who are truly children of God, who are members of God s family, love God. They want to be like God. Just as the little boy who adores his daddy wants to mimic everything his daddy does, children of God want to mimic God. They study the Bible and see how God exercises honesty. They see that He never says anything that is not totally honest. He never does anything that is not completely honest. Having watched God in action, His children mimic His honesty. The exercise of authentic honesty shows the likeness to God s family. Conclusion We won t take time here to develop every Christian character trait. A complete list of such traits exceeds 60, as nearly as we can determine. It would take many pages even to skim the surface of each. Suffice it to say that everyone who is a member of God s family does exercise Christian character. Every adopted child in God s family every true Christian mimics his or her Father in Heaven. I want to conclude with an illustration taken from our family life. Many years ago, when our children were both 3 years of age, my husband constructed a compact playground for them in our tiny Japanese backyard. A little house on stilts featured an exit with steps and another with a sliding board. In the shade of the house, a small wading pool provided water play. Attached to the frame of the house, heavy beams supported matching swings. At the other end of the minute yard, a large sandbox provided space for a different kind of play. Our children spent many hours playing on every piece with their Japanese friends. The reason I tell that here is that our son and daughter were fully involved in the building of this playground. They held wood for their dad. They handed him nails. They carried glasses of water and lemonade to him. They chattered with him about what they were making and what fun it would be. They spent much of every waking minute with their dad. Gradually, something began to happen. They began to use the words their dad used when talking about the playground. They picked up his hammer and hammered their own nails into scraps of wood. They carried out water and lemonade for themselves. They began to mimic their dad in every possible phase of the building project. Some of the mimicking was conscious. Some was unconscious. They simply began to bear the likeness of their dad in regard to that project. They bore his likeness in words and actions. That s what God s children do. They mimic God consciously and unconsciously. They bear the likeness of His family. Let your character be a clear indication of your place in God s family. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1

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