Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Lost Art of Integrity

Integrity: 1) the quality or state of being complete; unbroken condition; wholeness; entirety 2) the quality or state of being unimpaired; perfect condition; soundness 3) the quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
Conversations concerning integrity [even though the actual word “integrity” may go unspoken] are commonplace these days. And it seems our banter has more to do with the privation of integrity than the possession of it. This has always been the case east of Eden. But when God created man, man was the possessor of inherent integrity. He was complete and unbroken. He was unimpaired and morally sound. Man was the unmarred image of God his Creator. All of this changed with the first man’s first sin.

With the first man’s first sin, human integrity was no more. Sin caused and continues to cause, man to be broken and impaired, immoral and insincere. This is the universal indictment of scripture.
There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God…There is none who does good, no, not one…There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-11,12,18).
While some are certainly better than others, none are upright in the eyes of God. We often hear of the loss of integrity. We know what is meant by this expression. But the truth is this: one cannot lose what one never had. In light of God’s word, none of us, in and of ourselves, has integrity to lose.

Yet, we do speak of certain people as being a “person of integrity.” Here we are not referring to righteousness in the eyes of God, but of a person’s standing among his peers. In other words, when one sinner is compared to other sinners; he may be said to have [or conversely, lack] integrity. Here we are understanding “integrity” in the relative sense of the word.

If we speak of a carpenter as a man of integrity we are saying he does excellent work with fine materials at a fair price. If we mention a store owner to be a woman of integrity we mean she sells her wares without deceit. If we talk of an employer who has integrity, then we believe he pays equitable wages. Clearly, if we speak of a politician of integrity, then we are spinning tall tales or dealing in sarcasm. And so on.

What is troubling to me is that integrity, even in the relative sense of the word [the normal usage], is becoming somewhat of a lost art. Where does one turn to find integrity? I spoke--only somewhat tongue-in-cheek--of politicians. Politicians have never been known for their integrity. Ambrose Bierce defined politics as “The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” And hasn’t this been the case with our government officials? It seems every branch at every level of government is rife with corruption. Very, very few Americans look to our government in hopes of discovering integrity.

There was a time, at least in popular expectation (however right or wrong or naive), that a trusted profession labored to counter, or at least expose, the dishonesty of individuals and institutions. Of course, I am speaking of the field of journalism. Increasing numbers of people are waking up to the fact that journalists and news corporations are far from neutral reporters of fact.

This has always been the case, but yesteryear’s news--if only in pretense--attempted to objectively convey information. But no more. Media bias is so prevalent that I have heard time and again--coming from newsmen--“Journalism is dead.” This is but another way of admitting that a great number of journalists lack integrity, and that this deficiency is now common knowledge. With the advent of twenty-four hour cable news and the internet, the quest for truth has openly devolved into the race for ratings. How often I have asked: Who do I believe? Who can I trust to tell me the truth?

Let’s turn our gaze elsewhere. What of education? Can anyone convincingly argue that government run schools, filled with secularistic philosophy put into practice by godless teacher’s unions, are bastions of integrity? I think not. This is true from top to bottom. The most censored places on this planet are universities. There is nothing more closed than an open-minded professor.

At every level of formal education, intellectual honesty has been jettisoned for political correctness and the progressive agenda--all cloaked in the garb of “academic respectability.” Freedom of thought has been killed so that “free-thought” might live. But to sacrifice intellectual honesty on any altar of the sacred academy is a breach of trust and is grossly immoral.

What has happened to us? In the late 19th century, R.L. Dabney penned, “There can be, therefore, no true education without moral culture, and no true moral culture without Christianity.” I agree with Dabney’s assessment and now I must lament that Christianity itself faces various crises of integrity. It is painfully clear that the church faces crises of integrity in both belief and behavior. And “if the salt loses its savor...?” Our culture desperately needs Christianity and our Christianity desperately needs Reformation.

Indeed, where can our culture and Christianity turn to find integrity? In short, we must look to Christ and His word. When we turn to Jesus we see integrity embodied--not integrity in the normal, relative sense of the word; but integrity in its full and unqualified beauty. Reread the definition of integrity.

Is not our Christ physically, intellectually, spiritually, and morally: complete, unbroken, whole, unimpaired, perfect, sound, upright, honest and sincere? He perfectly practiced what He perfectly preached. In every thought, word, and deed He was and is the epitome of integrity. Thus, we look to Him as our example and we run to Him as our Savior. We find in Him—and only in Him--what we lack and we cling to Him, by faith, to obtain it.

Naturally, because we desire to be His disciples, we too should do our best to live lives of integrity. That is, all that we do we will do to the best of our ability and to the glory of God. Because Christ is Lord over every aspect of our lives, we will strive to ever narrow the gap between our profession and our practice, eschewing the presence of personal hypocrisy. For one thing is certain: We cannot forsake integrity if we would follow Christ.

2 comments:

  1. Integrity and the fear of the Lord are among my favorite topics right now. Thank you Steve for a good read. Where I work, there's little integrity to be found, for there's little who follow the Lord. It is sad to see more integrity among the cults now a days than professed Christianity. When you meet a JW, they are among the most upright people you will ever meet. Sometimes I wonder if a lost world can notice and appreciate a man of integrity -- especially one that is doctrinally sound as well.

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  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jerry. The lack of integrity in the institutional church is sad, indeed. May God grant that His people swim against this worldly tide.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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