God Is in the Office With YouBlog / Produced by The High Calling
Several months ago a dear friend, pastor of a large and flourishing church, tendered his resignation because he could no longer live and lead the congregation under the authority of the denomination in which he grew up. Though he had served several parishes within this group for most of his adult life, it became clear to him that the denomination as a whole was moving away from biblical teaching. He felt he had no other option, though there was bound to be widespread controversy and misunderstanding as a result of his choice. With this decision, our friend will lose his pension and many other benefits. He has taken a hit where it hurts, financially, but his heart and mind testify to his authenticity. His conscience is clear. His principles prevent him from believing one thing and practicing another. He is a man who loves God with integrity.
The related word integer refers to a number or quality with no part lacking—entire, intact, whole and holding together. When I think "integer," I think of the number 1 and its uprightness. The word integrity implies one-ness, completeness, sincerity, and moral character. In this age of easy promises, we may ask of a politician or a preacher, "Is he (or she) a person of integrity?" and test their record of assurances and achievements by inquiring "Do they walk their talk?"
According to Wikipedia, integrity is "the basing of one's actions on an internally consistent framework of principles." It has an internal strength that comes from unmixed motives, the opposite of the individual described in James 1:8 as "double-minded and unstable."
This does not mean perfection. We all make mistakes, or fall prey to temptation, but as God sees our deep hearts' desires here's his promise, "Seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul" (Deut. 4:29). And when the psalmist describes a righteous person, it is with words like these: "His heart is fixed, trusting in God" (Ps. 112: 7). Such a man or woman is grounded, firmly established in faith.
Sincerity is related to integrity. Maybe you've heard that the word "sincere" comes from the practice of filling in the surface defects, scratches or chips of a marble carving with wax to make it appear smooth and perfect. "Sin-cere" means without wax—what you see is what you get, and it is faultless in itself without having to be doctored to make it look good. Sometimes we're able to sense someone's personal sincerity just from the look on their face, the forthright way they meet the eye, and their body posture and language. Integrity is not so easy to discern. It is an inner characteristic that we only ascertain by listening to someone's words and watching their actions over time to see if they're consistent.
My favorite mental image of integrity is a lit candle. Imagine it with me: It is upright, singular, held firmly in place in its holder, sending out radiance often in a dark place, and not afraid to stand alone. I often light a candle to remind myself that God is in the room with me, by his Spirit. I want that. I pray that I myself, in self-examination and discernment, will be as single-minded as that candle.