It is said that those who aim at nothing are sure to hit it. Likewise, those who aim at mediocrity do not exceed mediocrity. You only rise to the height of the bar you try to reach.
So, I think we should set ourselves high goals – especially in the area of Godliness. We should be Godly in character for two reasons: 1) God tells us to be 2) Godly people actually find life more enjoyable, fulfilling and meaningful than ungodly people. The ultimate goal of Godliness is love of God and people, but as I bought bread at the supermarket, I wondered what that really looks like. Clearly, Christ is the role-model of Godliness, but we seem to give less thought to how Godliness works out in practise:
God is perfect. We should try to be. (Matthew , 1Pe -16)
We should not have to catch our tongue from saying something we shouldn’t, for we shouldn’t have thought it in the first place. We shouldn’t have to control our anger, for it shouldn’t get out of control in the first place. We shouldn’t have to try to do loving things for others, for they should come naturally. We shouldn’t have to be sorry for unkind thoughts or actions, because we they shouldn’t have crossed our minds in the first place.
We shouldn’t have to try and not lust, hate, envy, quarrel, gossip, slander, be proud, be disrespectful, hold grudges, be easily angered or upset, and offend people – because being loving, kind, merciful, gracious, and Godly should be so much part of our character that we don’t even contemplate the bad things.
I used to get upset/angry about certain things, but now they do not upset me. I used to be jealous of some things, but now I am not. I used to be proud in ways that now I am humble. By extension of this logic – all the bad things I do, I should eventually not want to do – in fact they should not even cross my mind! Then, when my character is such that I am habitually Godly in some area of my life, it will not be a struggle to do good against my habitual will to go bad.
For instance, I do not need to struggle not to swear, I simply do not – most often it does not even cross my mind to swear when something goes wrong. Now the reason that I do not swear is the same as the reason I do not use offensive language of any kind: I have seen that offensive language can be used to do great verbal harm to others, and I do not want to use words that have such destructive power. Sure, many times swearing is humourous and not harmful at all – but I’d rather be a bit less funny to make sure I don’t really hurt people with my words. For if the words are in my active vocabulary – you can be sure they just might come out in ways I don’t want them to.
I give this example not to boast (it’s hardly something to boast about anyway), but to show that what I’m saying is possible – we can reach a level of maturity where we do not have to control our desires to sin, because we do not have those desires to sin. There is something more powerful than having bad thoughts like everyone else and trying to control them – and it is not having bad thoughts like everyone else.
Surely, this is what Christians should try to be like. No Christians are perfect, and I am certainly not perfect – but all Christians should be growing toward the perfection of Christ’s character. Not all Christians can move toward having Christ’s character at the same speed, but all Christians should be moving. But how? Of course, character is only developed one way: our thoughts lead to actions, our actions lead to habits, and our habits make our character.
If we start with good habits in a certain area of life, it is easier to continue in them. But, if we start with bad habits, they can be hard to change. We all know how hard they can be to change I am sure. But nevertheless, they can be changed.
Do not confuse character with ‘personality’. Being easily angered, for instance, is not part of your ‘personality’ – it is part of your character. Pride is not part of your personality, but of your character. So it is with many other bad habits that people attribute to their ‘personality’ so that they disown responsibility to do anything to improve them.
People have forgotten the importance of role-models in life, so instead they endlessly wrestle in the mediocrity of fighting their own character but not wanting to change it. There are still good role-models out there, but they are getting harder to find. We need to remember there is one role model who we should attempt to be like – the perfect role-model of Jesus. Not only must we remember Jesus should be our role-model – but we must be determined to become like Him and generous to encourage others to do the same.