Hal Brady

Hal Brady

In recent days, I’ve read several articles on the accusation of cheating in three sports — baseball, golf and football (infractions). And these are certainly not the only sports who have issues with this kind of accusation either in the past or present.

However, with the three sports involved this time, a baseball manager and general manager lost their jobs, a golfer has a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head and several football programs are treading on thin ice.

With all the glamour of modern-day sports, why does something like this happen? Possibly one reason is our cultural insistence on winning. Common knowledge is that if you don’t win, you hit the road.

Another possibility for cheating is plain, old-fashioned greed. Truth is, very few so-called losers tend to draw top salaries. Just doesn’t happen.

But then another reason for cheating has something to do with character, or more to the point, the lack of it. For the rest of this article, I want to address the subject of character or integrity.

I simply cannot over-emphasize the importance of character. As traditionally understood, from the Hebrews and Greeks forward, character is the inner form that makes anyone or anything what it is.

As others have pointed out, character is what you are in the dark. It is who you are when no one is looking. Character is being who your dog thinks you are.

Chuck Swindoll, minister, theologian and author, said that for years he served on the board of the Dallas Theological Seminary with the late Tom Landry, legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys. On one occasion while the board was talking about the importance of character among young men and women going into the ministry, Coach Landry leaned over and said, “You know, Chuck, for the Cowboys, when we draft men for our team, we look for five things, and the first is character.”

And Swindoll responded, “Well, let me ask you something, a hard question. What if you find a terrific athlete who lacks character?”

Landry said, “Chuck, that’s easy. We don’t draft him.”

So why does character matter anyway? Of the many reasons, I want to mention only three.

First, we see what happens when character is absent! We’ve seen business corruption, wholesale cheating, massive problems of crime, athletic miscues, political dishonesty, religious scandals, greedy self-interest, unthinking prejudice and all sorts of mediocrity.

Second, there is the vital importance of character to leadership! So far from being a cliche’, character in leaders is critically essential for two distinct reasons. Externally, character provides the point of trust that links leaders with followers. And internally, character is the leader’s first prompting to do good and the last barrier against doing wrong.

Third, character matters because it has to do with the impending presence of God! In plain truth, God intends that we be people of character. If not, why the deliverance at the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments at Sinai, the Old Testament prophets, the incarnation in the babe of Bethlehem, the cross that Jesus died upon, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God, the church, the forgiveness of sins, the hope of humankind.

On the wall of Harvard Divinity School are carved these words, “Acquaint thyself with deity.” If we do that we’ll understand God’s call to the hero or heroine within us — God’s call to character.

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The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

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