Great discussion starter @Percy. Wonderful verses, so I’m going to copy them and the verses around them here.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ESV (2 Pe 1:3–11).
One of the first things I do on questions like this is look to word definitions. Do they really mean what I think they mean and how does the context shade my understanding.
In Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/character) I found these definitions for character:
: one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual
: the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation
I chose those particular subsets of the definition of character, because I think your question can speak both to the individual and the corporate character of Christians.
It’s a simple question, really. But I think the answers will be vast. I hope we get a lot of responses offering an abundance of qualities we as Christians need to develop.
So I’ve been meditating on these verses. Verses 3 & 4 are centered on Christ who has given us the great promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I believe that’s certainly the foundation of Christian character, that are lives are changing from being self-centered to Christ-centered through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
I was taken by that phrase, “partakers of the divine nature.” Through Christ and with the H.S. we take on the very character of God (not the divinity, but the character). We take on goodliness, we become able to love wholly (even the unlovable), we bring light into darkness, we become self-sacrificing without counting the cost – we become conformed to the image of Christ.
I think Peter’s list of attributes are not one building on another, but all-encompassing. That every step toward virtue is also a step toward the others, and so on. Peter is also telling us that we have work to do in this endeavor, we are to be intentional in developing these attributes.
In John 15, Jesus gave us the key to getting to our destination of comforming to His image…“abide in me.” John 15:8: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (ESV). Interestingly, the command is to abide. There is no command to bear fruit. Bearing fruit is the natural outcome of abiding. Too often we struggle to bear fruit, trying so hard to do for the kingdom. It’s a struggle because we are putting the cart before the horse.
Percy, I think the abiding is the key to your question of how to develop, guard, and preserve that character in our secular world. In our inner life we must make Jesus our home – our abode. And ABSOLUTELY through a life committed to seeking and following the Spirit.
I’d love to hear the rich wisdom from others. What attributes do you want to bring to the discussion as we focus on Christian character?