For example, the Character Education Network has identified the most common and broad-based group of character traits that it feels should be instilled in young people:4

The Character Education Network

  • Responsibility – being accountable in word and deed. Having a sense of duty to fulfill tasks with reliability, dependability, and commitment.

  • Perseverance – pursuing worthy objectives with determination and patience while exhibiting fortitude when confronted with failure.

  • Caring – showing understanding of others by treating them with kindness, compassion, generosity, and a forgiving spirit.

  • Self-discipline – demonstrating hard work controlling your emotions, words, actions, impulses, and desires. Giving your best in all situations.

  • Citizenship – being law abiding and involved in service to school, community, and country.

  • Honesty – telling the truth, admitting wrongdoing. Being trustworthy and acting with integrity.

  • Courage – doing the right thing in the face of difficulty and following your conscience instead of the crowd.

  • Fairness – practicing justice, equity, and equality; cooperating with one another. Recognizing the uniqueness and value of each individual within our diverse society.

  • Respect – showing high regard for an authority, other people, self, and country. Treating others as you would want to be treated. Understanding that all people have value as human beings.

Each of these character traits has roots in the Bible. But if you lived only by these character traits, would you be living distinctively according to God’s Word?

Probably not. These traits are all people-centered, not God-centered. While they are commendable, they are not life-transforming and Holy Spirit–empowered, nor are they distinctively Christian. So while biblical character counts, it’s just a beginning.

A Distinctively Biblical Life Will Affect Your Morals

Character needs a moral underpinning. Otherwise when the winds change, so will what we perceive as character. With the decline of the Bible’s influence on popular culture has come a commensurate decline in morality. This trend has thrown fuel on the fires of our culture wars.

For example, George Barna noted:

Americans unanimously denounced the September 11 terrorist attacks as a textbook example of evil, suggesting that there is a foundational belief in an absolute standard of right and wrong. Subsequent research, however, has shown that in the aftermath of the attacks, a minority of Americans believes in the existence of absolute moral truth.5

What’s even more surprising is that less than one out of three born-again Christians believes in absolute moral truth.

Today, morality isn’t based on the standard of God’s Word but on the criterion of personal benefit. In a Barna poll conducted the day before the 9/11 attacks, when asked the basis on which they formed their moral choices, nearly half of all adults said they made their moral choices based on what would bring to them the most pleasing or satisfying results.6

Even so, Americans worry about declining morals. Three out of every four people say they are concerned about the moral condition of the United States. The stronger the respondents’ personal faith, the stronger their concern. People who read the Bible were 32 percent more likely to be concerned than others.7 Clearly, reading your Bible helps define what distinctive living is.