Last night, a violent storm passed through with the usual stuff–driving rain, flashing lightning, and high winds. It happens up here in the wilderness. Thankfully, things held.
Right now, it feels like our nation is in a storm, and you can’t help but wonder if things will hold. The injustice done to George Floyd, the ongoing effects of Covid-19, the rising tide of partisan hatred and cultural conflicts, and the increased level of alarm sounded by significant voices. Little wonder David French, Senior Editor of The Dispatch, entitled today’s entry, “The Center is Not Holding.” Outrage and hatred and clickbait seem to be taking over. And when the center fails, a culture starts to crumble.
What is that center? Think of it as “the center of moral and cultural gravity—a nation’s moral core.” Character is what holds the center, but we are losing this at multiple levels, beginning with leadership. It is time we all stop and take stock of our interiors. Our hearts. Could this not be a providential part of the quarantine?
Character describes what is below, behind, and underneath. Character is descriptive of one’s inner reality, the bottom line by which all behavior is rooted (Guiness). Think of it as the aggregate of a person’s moral qualities, and it is demonstrated through the values, beliefs, and choices one makes. You see it—
-in how a person pays attention and uses one’s day
-in what a person reads
-in how a person is moved or unmoved by injustice
-in how a person copes with setbacks
-in how a person deals with promotions
-in how a person handles finances
-in how a person controls appetites
-in how a person treats power and authority
-in how a person values loyalty
-in how a person responds to criticism and personal attack and hate
-in how a person uses the present and looks at the future
If the center is to hold, we will have to give this necessary attention to the heart, what Dallas Willard refers to as a person’s “executive center.” This will require—
-waking from the stupor some of us find ourselves in
-pursuing solitude and interior reflection, knowing that the heart is what matters most to God
-learning from the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in
-recognizing the people he places in our lives and what they might be speaking into us
-renewing our commitment to wrestle against deeply ingrained sin habits from our past and dying daily to the old self
-asking God to fill our hearts with the love of Christ
-redeeming the time, rising each day in the power of a resurrected life to live well under an open heaven
If the center is to hold, the church also has a role. A vital role. The church must renew itself to take a certain responsibility for the nation’s moral core. We have been commissioned to be the light of the world, which means being the light that dispels the night, showing a way through and forward, exposing what threatens life, and bringing a certain moral clarity to the moral confusion. It means praying that God gifts us with future leaders defined first of all by their moral excellence. It means holding firm to our convictions, defined by God and his authority–no matter what. And above all, praying for his mercy.
Theologian John Stott’s warned of rough times, giving the church these words–
“The world is going down the drain’ (the center is not holding) we say with a shrug. But whose fault is it? Who is to blame? Let me put it this way. If the house is dark when nightfall comes, there is no sense in blaming the house, for that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, ‘Where is the light?’”
Thank you John for your thoughts and I too feel his words and the bible are just used to pull in conservatives. But, I do believe that most believers can see through this and feel sorry that he doesn’t know who Jesus really is. He thinks it is working for his re election and that’s what matters to him. Whether he is phony or not he may be used by God to make certain things happen and for that it is good. How many choices do we have for President?? These are troubled times, but we have a firm foundation in Christ.
John, I appreciated your helpful reflections on the subject of character. Thanks for your keen insights!