I must tell you that I have been troubled regarding the face of things in our country and within the family of God. My major battle has had to do with one word, one concept. My battle has to do with integrity.
In our nation and in the church there has been a falling away, a breaking down, and a compromise in integrity. Recent headlines have taught us that the fallout of both the business sector and the decisions of our government have been carried out devoid of integrity. But compromise isn't limited to CEOs and pork-happy politicians. All too often we find a moral laxity behind our pews and in our families.
Let me define what I mean by integrity. Webster's Dictionary tells us integrity means "an unimpaired condition." It means to be sound. The Hebrew word for integrity, tom, also means to be complete or solid.
So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them with his skillful hands. Psalm 78:72
Integrity is completeness or soundness. You have integrity if you complete a job even when no one is looking. You have integrity if you keep your word even when no one checks up on you. You have integrity if you keep your promises. Integrity means the absence of duplicity and is the opposite of hypocrisy. If you are a person of integrity, you will do what you say. What you declare, you will do your best to be. Integrity also includes financial accountability, personal reliability, and private purity. A person with integrity does not manipulate others, try to vie for control, or have a secret agenda. He or she is not likely to show arrogance or practice self-praise. Integrity even invites constructive and necessary criticism because it applauds accountability. It's sound. It's solid. It's complete. It is being faithful, available, and teachable.
Integrity is rock-like. It won't crack when it has to stand alone, and it won't crumble though the pressure mounts. It is about staying calm. Integrity keeps one from fearing the interrogation room or resists the demands of close scrutiny. It is honest at all costs.
The words of Louis Adamic seem fitting, "There is a certain blend of courage, integrity, character, and principle which has no satisfactory dictionary name but has been called different things at different times in different countries. Integrity is about having fortitude, grit, and guts.
This resonates with me. Integrity is having the guts to tell the truth, even if it may be painful to do so. Integrity is having the guts to be honest, not only with your close friends, with your spouse, and your kids.
But there are some things integrity is not. It is not sinless perfection. A person with integrity does not live a life absolutely free of sin. No one does. But one with integrity quickly acknowledges his failures and doesn't hide the wrong.
The reality is that I am with you in this. As a pastor, thinker, reader, observer, counselor, listener, searcher, questioner, teacher, practitioner, as well as a husband and father, I fail like everyone else. Here is the key, the sooner you and I remember this, the better we'll all get along. Regarding the issue of integrity, we need to set the pace. In our relationships, in our careers, in our ministries and especially our families. And if we have failed in some way, we must commit to do better so that the Gospel can be real and evident here on earth.
Integrity is essential in the church, in the marketplace, and especially in the home. When you walk in integrity, you leave it as a legacy for your kids to follow (Proverbs 20:7). It is the mother’s and the father's thumbprint. Blessed are you if you had a mother and father with integrity and guts.
When you work with integrity, you honor your family and the Lord. Elton Trueblood wrote, “It is hard to think of any job in which the moral element is lacking. The skill of the dentist is wholly irrelevant if he is unprincipled and irresponsible. There is little, in that case, to keep him from extracting teeth unnecessarily, because the patient is usually in a helpless situation. It is easy to see the harm that can be done by an unprincipled lawyer. Indeed, such a man is far more dangerous if he is skilled than if he is not skilled."
Do you put wire in walls? Do you repair cars? Do you work with numbers? Do you sell clothes? Do you teach others? Do you care for people? Perhaps you practice law, medicine, or business. The important thing is not what work you do, but whether you do your work with integrity. Maybe you labor behind the scenes, and your only thanks is the inner satisfaction of a job done right. Do you cheat on your exams? Are you cheating on your mate? Are you present with your family? Do you lead your family by example? It may be no wonder the world and our family is puzzled!
You want to make the world flinch? Start with yourself; demonstrate the guts to do what's right. It takes real guts to stand strong with integrity in a culture weakened by lies and deception. Start today, your family deserves it!