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What recent experience has revealed your character?
Jesus once told a story describing the kind of person who has a pure character. A traveler was attacked by criminals who beat him, stole his belongings and left him for dead. Three men approached the dying man one after the other. The first two made every effort to avoid him, going to the other side of the path to ensure they weren't tainted by a dead person. The third man stopped and helped.
Jesus explained that the first two were very religious and didn't want to make themselves "unclean" and thus lose the privilege of entering God's temple. Their understanding of what the law required of them was more important to them than the needs of a fellow man in distress.
The third man was more concerned with the well-being of the broken traveler than he was with his own needs, reputation or time pressures. Jesus said that this man stopped, cleaned the injured man's wounds, clothed him and carried him on his own donkey to an inn, where he paid for the man's lodging and medical care.
Jesus concluded by comparing his listeners to the three men who approached the battered traveler. While there are numerous reasons to pass by on the other side of the road, Jesus explained that those wishing to truly "love their neighbour" will, when the opportunity presents, choose to be like the third man, helping in spite of their own pressures and prejudices.
It is impossible to look ahead on life's path and see the obstacles and opportunities that will present. But it is in our power to be ready for those character-revealing moments when they arrive. How? By being a reconciler in small things now so that moments of deep and desperate need are not avoided.
Introduce yourself to strangers. Help a fellow shopper. Talk two angry kids through their conflict. Smile at people. Chat with the elderly. Surround yourself with good friends and expose your mind to morally worthwhile ideas and your character will develop accordingly. The apostle Paul said that by beholding Jesus we are changed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It really is all about choices. Joshua, a leader and general of the Israelites, said, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). No one can choose the direction of your character except you, and you do it by choosing - step by step - whom you will follow.
We spend thousands of hours entertaining ourselves-movies, books, computer games, crafts, television-and our minds are shaped and changed through this stimulus and information. If it is our intention to develop a noble character, we need to choose wholesome thought food.
Paul said it like this, "Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out... . Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you" (Romans 12:2, The Message).
To Be Like Jesus, Page 73