Character Counts, but Grace Counts More

Article excerpt

Byline: Rev. Glenn Loafman is the pastor at the Community Church of Barrington.

"Now the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David ... And Nathan said to David, 'You are the man! Thus says the Lord: I anointed you king ... Why have you ... (done) what is evil in (my) sight?'"

Given the limits of the public attention span, the "moral crisis" in Washington may already be a thing of the past, forgotten as yesterday's newspaper.

The facts, first fugitives in moral scandals, may even have come to light. At this moment, however, we are guided and confused by leaks and gossip - always sources of more smoke than the fire warrants. we onlookers are wary and confused.

The moral vista is clouded. We believe morality affects all aspects of life, including professional competency and public leadership, and our belief is not merely a naive instinct.

Erik Erikson's splendid "psychohistories" have explicated the psychological and moral qualities of great leaders disclosed in their public work. Luther, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King set their moral visions before the public eye, applied the lessons of their personal lives to their leadership roles, and elevated to the public stage the values and tensions of the private hearts. The quality of their leadership rested directly on the foundations of personality and character. Character counts!

On the other hand, we also know of heroes like Oskar Schindler, who, aside from his one gift of daring in defiance of the Nazis, never betrayed any evidence of good character or high moral vision.

In an era of "tell-all" muckraking, we are familiar with many public leaders whose service to a cause or a country stands counter to a host of personal flaws. A host of presidents, kings, sports legends, princesses, senators, religious leaders and generals have given admirable leadership and counsel though their lives include dark, shadowy, and shameful secrets. If character counts, where do these people come from?

Our quandary is not new. King David was one of history's most accomplished heroes. A musician and poet drawn from "among the people," he was a guerrilla warrior and revolutionary who rose through the ranks to become a brilliant general and statesman, political strategist, and a king at once cunning and visionary. …