For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young – let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:2-7
What does it mean to be a Christian? What characteristics distinguish a follower of Christ from the rest of the world? The Bible is full of instruction, but what recurring themes are found in Scripture as a whole? Ben MacConnell, of the Direct Action & Research Training Center (www.thedartcenter.org), asked similar questions, which led to a research project on Christian values. He was particularly interested in the prevalence of the principle of justice in Scripture, but his work considered and compared 20 different ideals commonly associated with Christianity. MacConnell chose specific values, along with their relevant synonyms and antonyms, and searched for their frequency of use throughout Scripture. He summarized his findings in this word cloud, where the values found most frequently are in the larger fonts:
The top five Christian values, according to this research, are love, justice, service, peace, and happiness. With the vast variety of instruction provided in Scripture, I find this list insightful. Many different authors, from diverse times, cultures, and backgrounds, contributed to writing the texts of the Bible. Attempting to wrap one’s mind around a central message can be challenging.
Values are guides for action. They are perhaps most useful when expressed as questions by which we measure our words, thoughts, and activities. For example, does what I am about to do reflect my love for others? Will my work make life more just for another? Whom will I serve by following through with my intentions – what persons will benefit? Am I increasing peace in the world and within others or destabilizing it? Do my actions increase the happiness of those around me? Assessing our work with value questions helps to assure we are aiding in the ways we intend, and helps keep us from doing harm in ways we may not be aware of otherwise.
Studying the most commonly mentioned character values in Scripture is useful in determining how best to act like a Christian. One who studies Scripture and seeks to emulate its guidance cannot overlook these five characteristics. In future Life Notes, I will focus each of these five, individually, and explore them further. These ideals are a good starting point, developmentally, for anyone seeking recognition as a Christian.
Come home to church this Sunday. Learning Christian values will help us live them.
Greg Hildenbrand, ContemplatingGrace.Com