Sometimes it’s the little choices in life that reveal our true character. When a cashier gives you too much change, what do you do? If your coworkers take advantage of the boss’s absence to shop online, check social media, or spend time talking, do you keep working or join them? You promised to take your kids to the zoo on Saturday, but you’re exhausted from a week of work and just want to stay home and rest. What will you do?
Each of these situations is a test of integrity, which seems to be a lost virtue today. We’re not sure if what we read in newspapers, magazines, or online is true, and so many public figures have proven themselves untrustworthy that we have a hard time believing them. Maybe we’ve seen hypocrisy in our families, among our friends, and even in ourselves.
God’s View of Integrity
We need a fresh look at integrity from God’s perspective. In Psalm 15:1-2, David asks and answers an important question: “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.” This is what God requires of those who desire to draw near to Him.
In the Hebrew language, the word translated as “with integrity” means “complete, blameless, whole, wholesome, innocent, upright” and includes being honest and sincere. Although we usually think of integrity as simply being moral in what we do and what we avoid, it encompasses so much more. It’s being an undivided person. In other words, who we appear to be on the outside to others is who we actually are in our innermost being.
While it’s surprising that the word integrity is not found in the New Testament, the concept is clearly conveyed with terms like “complete,” “mature,” “perfect,” and “purity of heart.” For instance, Colossians 1:28 says, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”
For the Christian, integrity can be summed up as Christlikeness. Think about all that this term entails. Aside from Christ’s divine attributes, every virtue typical of Him should be increasingly seen in us, His followers. This doesn’t mean that we will reach sinless perfection in earthly life but that we will continually grow in maturity and obedience to the Lord.
Christ’s Integrity on Display
To get a picture of genuine and complete integrity, let’s consider how Jesus Christ walked on this fallen earth among sinful people. His life is the pattern for us to follow.
He always spoke the truth. In fact, when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He was claiming to be the personification of truth. Even when total honesty was costly or confrontational, He never veered from it. (See John 8:39-45.)
Yet we so often manipulate the facts and rationalize that we’ve done nothing wrong. Whether it’s “little white lies,” gossip, exaggeration, or blatant deception, the temptation to fudge on the truth is always waiting to trip us up. What causes us to practice deception? It could be fear of losing an opportunity, relationship, advantage, or reputation. At other times, it’s an attempt to protect ourselves. And who hasn’t tried to escape an unwanted task by coming up with fake excuses? But in all these, the root cause is a lack of trust in God. Instead of simply obeying Him and telling the truth, we try to manipulate people’s perception of us and in the process lose what is of utmost value—our integrity.
Jesus was always faithful. His heavenly Father never had to wonder whether He would do what He’d been sent to earth to achieve. Right before going to the cross Jesus said, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4).
Commitment and loyalty are often missing in our society. Just look at the workplace. Many people give less than their best when they’re on the job. And if they aren’t happy, workers will oftentimes leave and get a job elsewhere rather than stay and honor their word. We even see the effects of this trend among Christians who are reluctant to commit to a church but hop from one to another.
Jesus always loved in both word and deed. His foremost display of love was in coming to earth to die for our sins. However, He also demonstrated compassion. He saw the needs of the people around Him, and His heart was moved to relieve their suffering.
Christ’s integrity was a perfect blend of internal love and external service. But we are so often divided, and our love is weak. Our hearts may be stirred by the needs of those around us, but concern could just as quickly fade away before it reaches our hands or bank accounts. However, compassion without action is just sentiment, not genuine love.
Jesus was always righteous. Integrity and uprightness go hand in hand. We all need righteous convictions that are non-negotiable. Once they are firmly established, they act as a guide for our choices and a guard against temptations.
Even when total honesty was costly or confrontational, Jesus never veered from the truth.
Too many Christians are content to simply know enough about Jesus to be saved, but God desires so much more for us. His goal is to make us men and women of integrity. Yet how can we look like Jesus if we know Him only on a surface level?
In the Christian life, integrity isn’t achieved through self-determination but through the knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ—and the power of the Holy Spirit. When we gaze at the Lord, we’ll begin to grasp who He is, our love for Him will grow, and obedience will become our delight. A life of integrity is simply an overflow of His life within us.
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