For the past few months, the news has been filled with questions, accusations, and indictments of people’s character. Our politics are not immune. Our entertainment is infected. Our athletes are exploited. Close relationships, both dating and even of parents, reveal the distorted world we live in. Sadly, even church leaders have demonstrated a lack of integrity. Perversity permeates the landscape of our lives.
It is common in these stories, that these crude and corrupt actions are often covered up or ignored. People might be paid off and told to keep quiet. Friends or those in leadership may overlook the report due to the relationship they have with the accused individual. They think, “I can’t believe that [insert name] would do that!” So, they dismiss the report and move on hoping that this is not true but deep down think it could be. Passivity and complacency might set in.
Integrity seems to be lost or waning, at least from what is reported. I want to look at two traits of people with integrity.
First, people of integrity confess their wrong actions and accept the subsequent consequences without excuses.
This assumes that the party in question is guilty. If they are, then people of integrity own up to their abusive, negligent,coercive, and manipulative words and/or actions. When seeds of sin are excused or ignored, they grow deeper and stronger roots. When confession is absent, it has less to do with the frequency of one’s sins and more to do with the friendliness of sin.
Regular confession is a reminder of our dependence on God not our independence from God.
People of integrity name what is “wrong” in their own life no matter the size. Integrity seeks righteousness (same word for “justice” in both the OT and NT) both privately and publicly. If there are wrongs covered up (knowingly or unknowingly), then people of integrity accept responsibility and seek justice on behalf of those who were wronged and that may include justice for their own actions. Apart from the regular confession of sin, the sins of pride, greed, lust, and power move slowly and seductively from enemies to be fought into lovers to be embraced. Confession names the wrong and accepts the wrong that is due to him/her.
Second, people of integrity invite others to openly examine their life.
Integrity is unnatural. When people error, we tend to move toward the shadows. We often camouflage our character with lies and blame (see, Genesis 3). But, people of integrity can handle questions into the crevices of their character because they have nothing to hide because the wrongs they have done are already in the light. Integrity is not the presence of perfection. Simply, integrity is the absence of shadows.
People of integrity live at noon not nighttime. Accusations can be addressed honestly and quickly for people of integrity. There are no subpoenas necessary. There are no servers wiped, e-mails deleted, browsers cleared, or meetings silenced. Phones can be accessed at any point. Closets may be closed but the skeleton once hidden inside is now in the living room in full view. People without integrity leave a wake of victimized people. Yet, those with integrity leave a legacy of valued people.
Confession is not the end goal of integrity. Rather, holiness through repentance is the goal. Repentance makes all the difference. People of integrity make a regular habit of confession for the purpose of repentance. Confession looks down. Repentance turns around.
Repentance is empowered by God’s Spirit, guided by God’s Word, and surrounded by God’s people. Repentance is never done in isolation.
Integrity does not often make the news. In the coming weeks and months ahead, there will likely be more stories of people who we once admired and whose character is now in question. As Christians, we take the time to mourn the pervasive perversity of sin. We long for the eternal kingdom of the Righteous/Just One. In the present, we confess and repent of sin for the purpose of displaying what our King and His Kingdom are like.