Dover HeartSid Womack

Integrity--You Can't Leave Home Without It

"INtagritty," the Black principal intoned. "You can know all of the math or business or English or music in the world, but if you ain't got INtagritty, you ain't nothin' as a teacher. And your students will know you ain't got none. They won't respect you for not havin' it, neither!" Thirty-five of us as high school faculty leaned forward in our chairs during the teacher in-service meeting of 1975, attempting to decode the wisdom of what the highly respected, distinguished educator of more than forty years was trying to get across. When we silently and individually realized that most people would pronounce the word "inTEGrity," his lecture was a lot easier to follow. And he was absolutely correct: Integrity affects our effectiveness in everything we do. What he could not say directly in that meeting was something he knew as a brother in the Lord: Our effectiveness in confessing Christ to a lost and dying world is bounded by our integrity.

From the A. Merriam Webster online dictionary: Integrity.

1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness synonyms see honesty

Integrity is what our nation is seeking right now, seeking so desperately. It is so difficult to find people of integrity in almost any walk of life. Elections to public office, especially high public offices, seem to be contests of who can tell the biggest lies the greatest number of times to the greatest number of people and get away with it. Is there anyone out there today who seeks public office ONLY for the purpose of serving others?

The world has seen times like these before. Pro 29:2 "When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan." Pro 29:7 "A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge." Pro 29:12 "If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked." Pro 29:16 "When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall." Pro 29:26,27 "Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice. An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked." The history of Israel of the Old Testament is riddled with the bullet-holes of a lack of integrity among its rulers who left integrity aside in order to get personal gain.

What is the Christian's answer to the need for integrity in America? In the United States, we have an unpreceded and unequalled opportunity to rectify such situations. It's called the vote. We have the opportunity to vote for people who have integrity and who will stand up for what is right. We do not have to take the kind of governing that we have been getting. We can elect people who will respect our right to worship as we see fit, so long as our worship does not interfere with the rights of others.

Job 2:9 Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." Here the scripture is talking about personal integrity. The privilege of walking hand in hand with God from this life into the next is all about integrity. How do you know that, Brother Sid? The Bible tells me so. Rev 21:8 "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." It is true that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3: 23). But the way that passage is thrown AT people today is an invitation to totally lay down our arms and surrender to the enemy, Satan. Romans 3: 23 wasn't writtent to get people to surrender spiritually without firing a shot. It was written to help us keep our salvation in perspective, to help us see the enormity of God's effort in justifying man to Himself. The Bible is a road map to improving one's personal integrity.

The Sermon on the Mount, to cite only one example, is a call to the improvement of personal integrity. It is in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. One cannot read those three chapters without hearing the call to raise one's personal integrity in his everyday walk with Christ. It is true that the Christian life is more of a journey than a destination. We never completely "arrive" while we are alive upon this earth. We can reduce the frequency with which we give into temptations, but we will still sin at least occasionally, as long as we live (I John 1: 6- 2: 5). That passage in I John was not written to try to get us to give up, but simply to remember where we came from.

Integrity has to do with the condition of the heart, the seat of the emotions. It may not be about being right all the time, but it is about getting it right more and more of the time. It is about improvement. When we see integrity in that light, the parable of the talents (Matthew 25) makes a whole lot of sense.

How do we improve integrity in the personal sense? Get Christ to help you. Read his Bible. Attend church faithfully. Spend your time with good people, people of integrity. Pray. Immerse yourself in doing the work of the Lord.

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