Three Character Traits

Plato, the Greek philosopher, was once accused of dishonorable conduct. “Well,” he said, “we must live in such a way that all men will see that the charge is false.”

Three things are advocated in I Timothy 4: 12 as traits of an honest and honorable life. They are fundamental for all life.

The first is love, The Greek word “agape” means unconquerable regard for the welfare of another without regard for what is gotten in return. It means to seek only the good of others. It rules out bitterness, vengefulness, resentment, and does not tolerate hate. Not all who say, “I love you,” really love you. If they love you they will deal with you personally and never try to expose or exploit your weaknesses. 

Love, such as a boy has for a girl or a girl for a boy, is instinctive. It is a thing of the heart. Agape love is a thing of the will. 

Michelangelo was reviewing the work of some of his students. For a long time he paused silently before the work of one of his favorite students. Then with a brush he wrote one word across it: “amplius,” meaning “larger.” The young artist had shown great skill but his small canvas made the design appear cramped. Could it be our Lord is respectfully writing “amplius” across your life? Do you need to expand the horizons of your love? Paul’s prayer for the Philippian church is worthy of application today: “This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” (Philippians 1: 9)  AMPLIUS ! 

The second is loyalty. This is an appeal for devotion to Jesus regardless of the cost. Loyalty to Jesus is an authenticating mark which defies circumstances. It is true whether you are in the light or in the shadows.

A 20th Century example of loyalty in Corrie Ten Boom. She lived through the worst Satan could hurl at her. In a Nazi concentration camp she saw her family tortured, starved, and finally killed. She survived through a clerical error. Yet through all of her anguish, torment, and pain she was loyal to her Lord and strong in her faith.

Her loyalty might be explained by these words found on a cell wall in a German concentration camp:
“I believe in the sun, even when it isn’t shining.
I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.”

The third is purity. Purity is an unconquerable allegiance to the standards of the loving Lord.

When Trajan was Emperor of Rome, Pliny his governor in Bithynia, wrote him of the Christians in his territory:

“They are accustomed to bind themselves by an oath to commit neither theft, nor robbery, nor adultery; never to break their word; never to deny a pledge that had been made when summoned to answer for it.” Aspiration to live by that standard today is admirable. Pause and realistically examine yourself in light of those three standards.