Teaching Christian character traits is not the same as teaching the world’s character traits. That is why Christian character traits are not taught in most secular settings. They are rejected because Christian character traits are drawn directly from the Bible. They are defined by God, and they are absolutes.
Teaching the Christian character trait of honesty, for example, will cause the secular world to take issue with you. While you are teaching an honesty that does not change with the situation, most secular teachers present an honesty that can be altered to fit your desire.
Replace the word “love” in this poem with any Christian character trait – honesty, for example.
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
— William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Sonnet 116)
The resulting poem helps us hone in on the difference between Christian character traits and secular presentations of the same qualities.
Honesty is not honesty if it changes with the situation. If our honesty allows us to fudge here and there, to create white lies or little fibs, it is not authentic honesty. We may excuse such lies with claims of trying not to hurt another’s feelings. We may justify fibs by explaining that we want to prevent another person from getting angry.
The Christian character trait of honesty does not alter when it alteration finds. The husband who declares himself honest to a fault? He’ll be at fault if he falsely says, “No, that dress doesn’t make you look a bit fat” to spare his wife’s feelings. The mom who teaches her kids honesty? She’ll be at fault if she falsely says, “I didn’t get that report yet” to avoid her boss’ anger.
Christian character traits are God-defined absolutes that we draw from close study of His Word. They are absolutes because:
- God, who defined them, is Himself immutable – unchanging.
- God’s words of Scripture are inspired by the Holy Spirit, who also is unchangeable.
- Altering God’s Word to be provisional is the work of Satan.
- No person may dare to change anything God established.
- No person may dare to alter even one of God’s words.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan was (as Shakespeare puts it) “the remover to remove” the meaning of God’s “ever-fixed” words. Coming to Eve, the crafty serpent asked her to verify God’s command and vowed punishment. Then he employed secular honesty.
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (KJV)
The serpent altered the mark faster than your tailor can alter your pant length. He bent the facts to get what he wanted: Eve’s obedience to him. He removed the true meaning to make God’s words fit his desired outcome.
Christian character traits do not bend. They are “ever-fixed mark(s)” that are never removed or shaken. We can rely on them. We can rest down firmly, knowing that once we’ve learned their meaning, they will not change.
If you are teaching Christian character traits, you are teaching God-designed qualities. It is not an easy task because you are handling God’s absolutes, and you must handle them with care.
We would like to help you teach these absolutes. That’s why we have prepared an entire program of ready-to-use lesson plans specifically for Christian educators and parents. The program (when complete) will cover 24 different Christian character traits. Each trait will be presented from four (4) different perspectives, one lesson for each perspective. That means you will have at your fingertips four (4) lesson plans for each trait – 96 lesson plans in all. You can teach a different trait each month for two (2) full years.
This program is called the Christian Character-Trait-of-the-Month program. At the time of this writing, 14 lessons have been posted online, with additional lessons being added at a rate of two or more per week. I encourage you to read about the program at this link.
Teaching Christian character traits is a task with great responsibility, but fulfillment of that responsibility brings great blessing.