“The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.” Psalm 7:8
When we think of “integrity,” we tend to think about moral character.
A person of integrity is principled and committed to doing what is right regardless of the circumstances or the audience. But true integrity is more than that – it also means that a person is not one way in private and another in public, not one way when they are with their family and another on stage. They are the same person all the time.
That’s certainly a worthwhile goal, isn’t it? Especially since each of us is a chameleon to one degree or another. That is, we at least face the temptation to adjust ourselves according to our audience. But to grow in Christ means, at least in part, to grow not only in our public persona but also in our consistency. To be people who are more “whole.”
But that pursuit has its challenges. I mean, you can quickly search public people who have had a moral fall, whether inside the church or out of it, and readily identify a bunch of those challenges.
You might say:
That sexual temptation is a challenge.
Yet there are other challenges – deeper ones – that wear these apparent challenges like masks. These deeper challenges are of the heart variety – they are the temptations that get us at the core, striking at the deepest parts of who we are. And when you start to look past the most visible challenges to these deeper ones, the list gets a lot leaner.
In fact, there might be only two primary challenges to our integrity: fear and love.
The Bible has much to say about fear. On the one hand, we are told to “fear not” repeatedly. On the other hand, we are told to “fear the Lord” repeatedly. These are obviously two different kinds of fear, and much of the difference is about the object of that fear.
We might be afraid of disease, economic downturn, the unknowns of tomorrow, or whatever. But if we pull the thread of that fear, we will likely find that the focus at the end of that fear is ourselves. We fear what will happen to us. In the end, regardless of what particular entity inspires that fear in us, we are still focusing on ourselves. Our future. Our well-being. Our comfort.
But the fear of the Lord is different. The end of that thread is God Himself. When we fear the Lord, we grow in our understanding, awe, and love of His character and power. Our eyes are fixed on Him, and when we focus on Him, we find this holy reverence rising inside us. He dominates our gaze because He is too big to share that focus with anyone or anything else.
Similarly, “love” is obviously a good thing in the Bible. “God is love,” after all, and not only that but “love” is the primary characteristic that should mark the followers of Jesus (1 John 4:8; John 13:35). The Christian should have both a vertical and horizontal component to love, with one directly impacting and feeding the other. When we know we are loved by God (vertical), we will express that love to those around us (horizontal). In the same way, we cannot truly claim to love God if we are in no way loving in the horizontal relationships of our lives.
Unfortunately, the object of that love can also easily shift. We can begin to love the things of the world. The praise of people. The gifts of God rather than the giver of the gifts. When our love shifts, our integrity is at stake because, as in the case of fear, we are suddenly willing to sacrifice anything for what we truly love.
Fear and love, at the root, are the two things that challenge our integrity. But the opposite is also true. If we want to live lives of integrity, it’s not enough to simply decide to live in a moral fashion. No, true integrity comes from knowing who God is and knowing who we are in light of who He is. It comes from fearing the Lord and then loving Him above all else because we know He has first loved us.
People of integrity aren’t just those who make good decisions. They are people driven by fear and love. The right kind of fear and love.
Are you a person of integrity?
Written by Michael Kelley, Guest Contributor
To read more of Michael’s writing, check out his daily blog, Forward Progress http://michaelkelley.co/