You Can’t Teach Character

“The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. When He had cleansed us from our sins, He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT)

Like so many dimensions of our walk with Jesus, our character as a believer isn’t so much taught as “caught.” What does that mean? It means the longer you hang out with Jesus, the more you’ll begin to act like Him, picking up details of His person that can’t be learned by reading words about Him.

The word translated in the above verse “character” is the Greek word “khar-ak-tare,” and it’s literal meaning is: “a mark or figure burned in or stamped on, an impression; the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect.” (Strong’s) What does that mean in laymen’s terms? It means Jesus is God in human form, and if we hope to attain a godly character it can only come from God.

Further, it means the more time we spend with Jesus the more exact an impression of Him will be “burned” or “stamped” onto our character, into our being. We don’t simply learn Christlikeness, we experience it, we ingest it, so much so the Holy Spirit can actually begin to model it in and through our own character.

It should be no secret that if Christ infills and lives in us, the longer we walk with Him the more freedom He has to manifest His presence in and through us. The implication being, the longer we walk with Jesus, the more mature our faith becomes, the more our life should reflect His character. Chuck Colson wrote: “You can’t teach character; you learn it by associating with virtuous people.”

Photo by Andres Ayrton on

So, the logical question then becomes: “who are the virtuous people with whom I should associate?” Paul gives us insight in 1 Corinthians 15: 33-34: “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for ‘bad company corrupts good character.’ Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.”

The context of these verses is a reference to those who deny that there is a resurrection, of Jesus or anyone else. Thus, for our purposes, anyone who denies the truth of Scripture. But again, the context suggests that Paul is writing to and referring here to professing believers. He is not directing us to not associate with unbelievers who hold and speak beliefs that contradict what the Bible teaches. We must do that if we hope to win them to Jesus.

This will likely take some discernment but be careful who you trust when it comes to your closest friends. My goal is to spend as much time as possible with those in and through whom I see and sense God’s holy presence. However, I’m also committed to walking with new believers and those who aren’t yet saved. So, what’s the answer? Balance.

Being guided by the Holy Spirit in every decision we make, let Him direct when and with whom we’re to invest our time and energy. The implication of something being “caught” is that in order to “catch” character from someone else, you must spend time with them. But the same principle applies to those with whom we need to spend time who need to catch godly character from God’s Spirit within us.

Of course, it’s God’s character we desire, not only to “catch” from others, but to allow the Lord to enable others to “catch” from us. But the main way to gain Christlike character is to spend as much time as possible alone with Him.

Food for thought.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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