Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Beauty of Good Character

Over the past handful of years, I've become a big fan of UFC.  What I originally saw as a pointless and brutal display of violence, I came to see as true competitive sport that requires strength, peak conditioning, perseverance, and skill.

As I've watched various matches and followed various athletes, I've come to favor and follow certain athletes in particular.  Some of them I favor for their skill alone, but others, like Lyoto Machida, I favor because of his skill, his unique contribution to the sport (he is the only UFC fighter I am aware of that primarily uses Karate techniques), and, as the icing on the cake, his character.

He stands out, as even commentator Joe Rogan pointed out in Machida's last fight against Chris Weidman in UFC 175, as one who is gracious in both victory and defeat.  He is a sportsman who believes in honor and good sportsmanship over showmanship and inflating his ego.  He gives credit where credit is due.  He accepts loss graciously and humbly, and he accepts victory with the same amount of humility and gratitude.  Yesterday, Machida lost to Weidman by decision, but you know what?  I will still follow his fights and root for him.  Character matters.

It may not matter to everyone.  There are certainly plenty of people who are too wrapped up in all of the trappings of feeding the ego, gaining power or wealth or fame, constantly seeking attention and adoration for themselves.  But when you go that route, it comes at great cost.  You give up character.

It is easy to become discouraged or even envious of such people, however.  Some people pull it off.  We see the authors of Scripture talking about such people and, more importantly, talking about the very human reaction that borders on envy.  "Why do the wicked prosper?!"  It seems unfair.  Why do they seem to get everything they want?  And why do I not?

Though it may not be the answer we want to hear, the answer is not that difficult to see.  Having good character has a cost associated with it.  You will suffer.  You aren't always going to be admired or recognized.  There will be seasons, perhaps long, arduous seasons, where maybe nobody sticks by you, where few aren't wrapped up in the fanfare of attention-seekers, self-seekers.  That is the way the world works.  That is what Christ experienced, and He told us we should expect no different.

But it is worth it.  Eventually, character stands out... and it stands out to those who matter most, to those who value character also.  And even though we may envy such people because of their apparent success in easily getting what we sometimes wished we had -those temporary and fleeting self-made glories- we should ask ourselves a question:  Would we want to trade places?

What if we could?  What if we had an opportunity to sell ourselves out and become like those people, to gain all of the temporary glory they seem to attain for themselves so easily, but it meant that we had to become like them?  Would you?  I wouldn't.  No way.

See, while there a cost to standing your ground in what is right, in what is of good character, the cost is ultimately much higher to give that all up for what they seem to have in the moment.  You would give up you.  You would give up everything God has built and wrought in you.  You cover the light He has fixed in you.

And such is a shame, a waste of the "talents" given.

I realize Christians often have a hard time talking about good things within ourselves.  We are sinners, after all.  That is true.  But it does not also mean there is not a part of us that sheds the light of Christ and reflects that light through good character.  It is not pride to recognize that when we know such a thing is a gift from our Maker.  When we know we have something precious and valuable given to us, we are more likely to protect it and use it for Him.

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