Thursday, March 13, 2008

Peter’s Need for Approbation

When I was in college a Pastor working on his master’s asked our professor to use our class to fill out an inventory about personality temperaments. Our professor obliged and one morning we all filled out the inventory. It was long and tedious, but the results were worthwhile. At the end we found out what our personality temperaments were. In a great part, we could explain why we did what we did and in the way we did it. Since then, the topics of personality temperaments have fascinated me. With an understanding of this topic you understand yourself, and also others as well.

If you’re dealing with a bossy person his (her) temperament is probably choleric. If you are dealing with a calm, quiet, person that just want to get along his (Her) temperament is probably phlegmatic. If you are dealing with someone that loves data and love to stick to rules his (her) temperament is probably melancholy. If you are dealing with a vociferous, impulsive, life of the party type, his (her) temperament is sanguine.

Someone did a chart to explain this graphically. He drew a horizontal line and said that people represented above that line were outgoing and people represented below were reserved. After this he drew a vertical line crossing the horizontal line. He said those represented to the left of the vertical line are not people oriented and those represented to the right are people oriented. You end up with four quadrants. The top left quadrant represents Choleric people = Outgoing and not people oriented. The bottom left quadrant represents melancholic people = reserved and not people oriented. To the right and bottom you have represented the phlegmatic = reserved and people oriented. The top right quadrant represents sanguine people = outgoing and people oriented.

By studying the characters of people in the Bible we can tell what their probable temperament was. Many Pharisees were probably high on sanguine temperament traits. They loved to be around people, showing off and loudly talking about their achievements. It is a typical sanguine trait. In some circumstances it is an asset and in many others it is a weakness. Just like anything else if left unrestrained and bias toward the negative, it can become a character flaw. Sanguine people tend to love the approbation of others. Such was the case of the Pharisees. Such was also the case of Peter.

Peter showed all sanguine characteristics. He was impetuous, impulsive, and outspoken. He was driven by his feelings which vacillated from faithful to fearful (Consider the passage of Matthew 16: 16 -23). Peter like many other sanguine people, was also very concerned with his reputation. His need for approbation was very high. Still not understanding the gospel, he wanted the kingdom to be here and now. And, he wanted to be part of the elite when this Kingdom arrived. The cross did not fit his understanding of this Kingdom Christ was preaching about (Matthew 16:21-23). The cross was too humiliating for someone who craved approbation from others.

After Peter’s conversion all of these negative traits gradually disappeared. The Holy Spirit conquered Peter’s prejudice against gentiles (Acts 10:34; 15: 7 – 8; Galatians 2: 11 - 14). He increasingly became less dependent on his feelings and need for approbation. He learned to trust God more and more. Perhaps the greatest sign is that he agreed to die crucified (John 21: 18 – 19). Something years before he abhorred (Matthew 16:21-23).

Peter before conversion gets a lot of slack from people. He is looked down upon. However, Peter did not act any different than any of us would if we had the same personality temperament, circumstance and opportunity. Peter’s actions were not sinful because he was sanguine, but because he trusted self, instead of Christ. The same goes for us. Whatever personality temperament we have is not the Sin. But, resisting the Holy Spirit’s work in us, to take away character flaws that may come from weaknesses of our personality temperament is the Sin. Will you allow Him to work in you?