In a society where morality and integrity are often lacking, learn how you can choose to always do what is good and right.
In Great Britain, Members of Parliament resign in disgrace due to abuse of taxpayer’s moneys. On Wall Street CEO’s lose their jobs while their companies disappear. And on Main Street homes are foreclosed, businesses are shuttered and a world economy retreats from a near melt down.
What has happened in recent months? What do these, and other stories, tell us about ourselves and our times? Is there more to these stories than just money and finance? I think so. We are seeing problems that are spiritual in nature. That’s right…I said spiritual. There is more here than meets the eye.
Stay with us on this edition of Beyond Today while we look into the reality of “A Crisis of Character”.
Early on the morning of June fifth, 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower rose from sleeping in his small trailer in England. With the most important sea to land invasion in the greatest war in history about to occur the next day, General Eisenhower wrote a note taking full responsibility should the attack fail. “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame attaches to the attempt it is mine alone” (Michael Korda, Ike , 2007, pp. 52-53).
General Eisenhower shouldered the burden for the possible failure of what we now know as D-day. The D-day offensive did not fail but Eisenhower’s willingness to take full responsibility if it had, illustrated a level of character not often seen in people now or then. Dwight Eisenhower commanded total forces in excess of 2.8 million yet he never considered the welfare of any of his soldiers’ lives lightly. His careful planning and strong determination insured victory without excessive slaughter. A lot of men died that day but by comparison it was less than other battles in other wars.
Character…the essential quality for leadership and for a successful life. In the few minutes with you today I would like to discuss the character it takes for you and I to navigate the details of each day. Character is not just for leaders. Character is for all of us. Character defines our lives in small and large ways.
In this example of General Eisenhower we see a man who accepted responsibility for his actions. By writing that letter in advance he was preparing himself to accept full responsibility for any failure. He would not blame anyone else. He would not blame the weather or politicians back home. He would not blame his men. He accepted responsibility and accountability.
Responsibility is a biblical quality and a fundamental part of godly righteous character.
Essential to the success of the D-day invasion was the quality of the men who actually made the assault. Among the troops involved were three airborne divisions—one British and two American. In the days following D-day, the character of these men would be tried again and again; their mettle would be tested and, as history now shows, they passed the test.
One of the qualities that generation had and has can be summed up in the word character. Major Dick Winters, who was a member of Easy Company, part of the United States Army 101st airborne division that was involved in the assault on Normandy, wrote his observations on leadership and character. “First and foremost, a leader should strive to be an individual of flawless character, technical competence, and moral courage…Character provides a leader with a moral compass that focuses his efforts on the values we cherish: courage, honesty, selflessness, and respect for our fellow man” (Beyond Band Of Brothers, 2006, p. 284-285).
American newsman, Tom Brokaw, referred to the American World War Two generation as “the greatest generation any society has ever produced” (The Greatest Generation, 1998, p. xxx). He included in this group not only the soldiers and sailors who fought the war but those on the home front as well. He credits them with making possible the prosperous society that the United States had in the second half of the twentieth century.
The World War Two generation in England also revealed people who possessed outstanding character. First of all, they were led by a man who provided a stalwart example and found the words to inspire the British people to follow his example of bravery; that man was Winston Churchill. Unlike their American counterparts, the English civilians found their homeland under attack from the German forces. The Germans had conquered France and because of its proximity to England, German bombers could easily reach English territory. “…it was not just the men in khaki who were fighting this war. The civilians, the men, woman and children who had stayed at home, were in the front line now” (Charles Whiting, Britain Under Fire , 1999, p. 33).
Churchill rallied the people with his inspiring speech. “We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender” (p. 14).
The character of the English people during these times was sterling. This is illustrated in the way they dealt with severe rationing of goods. “…clothing was severely rationed, so people had a certain threadbare look; bathing was limited to four inches of hot water, to save fuel…the meat ration was a few ounces a week; the average citizen was allowed one egg a month; and fresh fruit of any kind was so rare as to be an unthinkable luxury” (Korda, p. 269).
Yet the English people carried on without grumbling. Looking back on the situation one lady commented, “Traumatic years they were…what with the raids and the rationing and restrictions, but they were happy ones. You could leave your door open when the sirens sounded and rush to the shelters to find everything intact…when you returned. Then there was a loyalty, a compassion for others, and a spirit which I wish was around today” (Whiting, p. 19).
How different are matters in Great Britain today! That nation has recently been shocked by revelations that members of Parliament have routinely used taxpayer funds for personal expense. This has led to a crisis in confidence in the leadership of one of the leading nations of the free world.
The speaker of the House of Parliament has been forced to resign. Many members of Parliament (MPs) have been implicated, across all parties, and many have also announced they will leave office at the end of the current session in less than a year. The abuses range from small amounts of money to the expense of entirely remodeling a home—all at taxpayer expense. Queen Elizabeth II is reportedly deeply disturbed by the revelations. The speaker’s resignation is the first such occurrence in more than three centuries.
Britain has drastically changed in the past generation. Many lament the lack of values and adherence to a Judeo-Christian religious ethic that puts the Ten Commandments squarely in the center of a moral life. Of course, just talking about the Ten Commandments doesn’t make a nation righteous, but there is an argument to be made that when these values are taught, there is a corresponding positive impact upon a people.
A friend’s Perspective
World News and Prophecy senior writer Melvin Rhodes recently returned from a two-week visit to his home country. Commenting on the change between the 1950s to the 1960s in Britain, which has impacted the changing of the guard of British leadership, told me: “In the 1950s the old standards still prevailed. Each school day began with a Bible reading and prayers. On Fridays we ended the day similarly, as if we all needed fortifying for the temptations the coming weekend might offer! We were taught the Ten Commandments and basic biblical principles common to all churches. In short, there was a certain familiarity with the Bible…
“By the middle of the 1960s all this was to change… Replacing it were new values that were not really values at all. Materialistic values, money, promiscuity and a good time became the new gods as the nation rejected the old values, many of which were based on the Bible.”
Times Have Changed
We live in a society today where character has been greatly de-valued from the generation of World War Two. Perhaps the greatest nose-dive dates to the decade of the sixties—a time when the World War II generation—was working and providing a standard of living that raised the level of society in general. Looking back on the sixties, historian Arthur Marwick wrote, “For some it is a golden age, for others a time when the old secure framework of morality, authority and discipline disintegrated.” There were “massive changes in personal relationships and sexual behavior; a general audacity and frankness in books and in the media, and in ordinary behaviour” (The Sixties, 1998, p. 3). Marwick adds that it was a time of “a general sexual liberation, entailing striking changes in public and private morals” (ibid. p. 18).
Character is a spiritual issue. It has spiritual qualities. Character has eternal consequences far beyond our lives today. When we understand this key fact it moves us to carefully consider our actions and deeds every single day. Our character links to eternal life in the kingdom of God.
Our booklet, The Road to Eternal Life outlines the way to eternal life as outlined in your Bible. Go online right now to beyondtoday.tv to read or order your free copy of The Road To Eternal Life Or, call toll-free 1-triple-eight-886-8632. That's, 1-triple-eight-886-8632, or go online to beyondtoday.tv.
Let’s get back to this issue of accountability and character. Remember the story of Eisenhower I told you at the beginning? Let me give you another, a more current story.
December 8, 2008. A young Marine pilot takes off from an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln on a routine training flight. The carrier is about 90 miles southwest of San Diego.
We have today a crisis of character. The freedoms granted to us by God–the freedoms that allowed creation of a fabulously wealthy world–have been abused. Our character, both personal and national, has been eroded.
When we return our Beyond Today panel will discuss some practical steps you can take to address you personal character.
Questions for the Beyond Today guests
I read a lot about leadership and character. I am always reading that effective leaders take responsibility for their actions. What is your favorite Biblical example of a person who accepted his or her responsibility?
What steps can a listener take to develop a healthy approach to individual responsibility?
Character is one of those “hard” terms that is difficult to discuss, challenging to build and a lifetime spent maintaining. In our modern permissive world it is not discussed in many circles. But it is an important part of your life.
On Beyond Today we hold the word of God as the guidebook for life. It is filled with examples of character and integrity–beginning with that of Jesus Christ. There are many reasons this book has endured through the ages. One of the main reasons is the stories of people of character. Men and women who lived good and Godly lives against great opposition. People who chose the right and good way over the wrong and evil.
Make your choice for the good and the right. Choose character that endures for a lifetime. Choose God’s way and live.