The Measure of a Man
In our culture the measure used to define what makes up a man is rapidly changing; in essence it is answering the question, what defines his character? In years past it was how hard he worked, or how successful he was in his career. Some used the measurement of social success, how well he was liked or admired by his peers and how much influence he had on those around him. Others may define a man’s character by looking at his family: are his children well behaved, and are they in turn also successful in this life? Recently it has been a measure of what the world deems as “tolerance” that makes or breaks the character of a man--how he treats women or those who live in homosexuality specifically, or even how he treats the environment by what he chooses to eat. Today many use how successful a man is with sexual encounters as a measure of his character, or how good he is at cheating others.
There is a quote that reads, “Live with a man 40 years. Share his house, his meals. Speak on every subject. Then tie him up, and hold him over the volcano’s edge. And on that day, you will finally meet the man.” - Director, Josh Whedon
The measurement being used here is the darkest day in a man’s life, the notion being that when you see how someone acts at their worst or in the worst situation, that is when you truly know exactly who and what that person is inside. You have, at last, finally exposed the truth of their character by seeing them at their worst. The life they lived in good times means nothing, and only the moment that they are weak or at their lowest is a valid measurement of their character. I have heard wise and learned brethren say that this is an accurate measurement of the character of a man or a woman. And at first glance, it does appear to be full of wisdom. But let’s take this measurement to scripture and determine the character of godly men and women by this standard.
If used, Noah, a man who moved with godly fear and constructed the ark by faith would be nothing more than a drunk. Abraham, who became the father of a great Jewish nation, is a liar. Jacob, who is in the lineage of Christ, a cheat and manipulator. Sampson, a womanizer. King David, an adulterer and a murderer. King Manasseh, a pagan idol worshiper. Moses, a murderer, a man of pride, and a coward. Rahab, a prostitute. Gideon, a doubter. Peter, a denier of Christ and one who shows favor among God’s people. Paul, a persecutor of Christ and a murderer. The list could go on and on of men and women who, despite the good they did, despite the faith they had, despite the things they did to correct their mistakes, if measured by their darkest moments, have unforgivable character flaws. Interestingly enough, many of these are mentioned in Hebrews 11 as models of faith!
The problem with using the worst moment in someone’s life as a measurement of who they really are is that all of us, every last one, would be the worst person on the planet. No trust could exist between husband and wife due to a moment’s anger. No forgiveness could exist between a brother and sister because of a single betrayal. As Christians, we would go through life in a constant state of disbelief of the goodness or virtue of others. Instead we would be waiting for, and in all likelihood, looking for the day that they are weak and saying as the Ammonites said in their measurement of the Jewish nation, “Aha!” See? Now we know who they are by their sinful deeds" (Ezekiel 25:1-7). Or as the wicked said of King David, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it” (Psalm 35:19-25)!
The truth is, this measurement IS full of wisdom, but not of God’s wisdom. This measurement is the measure that man uses in his own wisdom (James 3:13-18). This is the measure the world uses to pronounce hypocrisy against a Christian who they see commit one sin.
So then what measure does God use to define the character of a man or woman? What measure should we use when we deal with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ or in any relationship? It’s not the measure of what is done in the darkest moment that God uses, it is what is done after the darkest moment. Using only King David as an example, God saw that once confronted by Nathan with the truth of his deeds, David did what we all should do: he repented and did all in his power to make the situation right (2 Samuel 12). God would call David, an adulterer and murder on his darkest days, “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).
Did God forgo earthly consequences for David’s sin? No, but the consequences that would have come had he not repented would have been much worse. Does this mean we turn a blind eye to sin? No, there are standards we must use, especially when we see unrepented sin or are considering men as elders and deacons. Does it mean we omit dark moments and say they are meaningless? Nope, they are a good barometer that someone is learning and growing in Christ if they respond well to it, and their response is also closely tied to their relationship with God.
So should we go about our life thinking that someone's character is defined by what they did in a moment of error and using that as the eternal measure of what kind of man or woman they are? If that were true, then I’d ask you, what does your darkest day say about your character? Is that consistent with what God says you are? I know my darkest days would say my character is that of a denier of Christ; a liar, a cheat and manipulator; a spiteful, angry and hateful man; a drunkard, drug user and a coward. I thank God that is not how He sees me, and I know that despite my darkest days, God looks at what I did after as the measure of who I am; a loved, growing child of His.