in·teg·ri·ty ( n-t g r -t ) n.
- Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
- The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
- The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness
Over the years the concept of integrity has intrigued me. I remember as a youth listening to my grandfather, one of the wisest men I ever knew despite the fact that he only had a 3rd grade education saying, “If a man ain’t got his word, he ain’t got nothin’”
Now those were the days, the days when a handshake meant something and a promise was good enough to bank on. Something has happened over the years. I don’t know when, I suspect it has been there all along but on the concept of integrity, my life experiences have not been all that positive.
I know Christians are supposed to be different, I have always known that, even since my youth. It was one of the reasons I rejected Christianity for so long. I had seen people professing a life changing faith in Christ, yet living lives far from the example.
I realize from the very outset of this blog, my perceptions have been skewed, unfortunately for the worse, not the better. A brief scenario as to my life experiences with Christians.
- My grandparents were professing Christians and so was pretty much everyone else in the south. Yet, there was racism in the comments of many within my family, and my own father had a violent temper, reportedly killing a man once in a fight.
- I begin to be abused as a small child, both physically and sexually by guess who? Christians.
- After I got saved I was pretty much homeless. Those in the church knew it, but did nothing to help. I had one person offer to help me from the church. That was great and the money was nice but he had more of in interest in me sexually than anything else.
- I went to a “Christian” college, had the world promised to me, all kinds of expenses would be taken care of and on and on. Did it happen that way? Wrong!
- I was a part of a start up church the pastor was dedicated to the body, for about 3 months when he left us all high and dry.
- I worked in Christian music in its early days. Had concerts booked and places to play. Churches payed part of what they agreed to about 6 out of 10 times. The other 4 out of 10 times, they didn't pay at all. By the way, the non Christian concerts we did later paid 10 out of 10 times and a lot more money.
- Over the last few years my experience with Christian renters. Now understand, my family is not wealthy, we get by from month to month, just like most people. We certainly don’t have the money to pay our expenses in Wichita plus for the upkeep of our house in Oklahoma which we rent out.
- First our Christian Real Estate Property Manager. Lies, wouldn’t return phone calls, didn’t take care of the property or do her job, even kept horrible records and didn't collect our payments as were agreed upon.
- We have rented the property to 4 different renters over the course of the last 4 years, all claiming to be Christians. Only one honored their lease. One went so far that when we tried to collect damages on the house they refused to help because we expected him to honor his agreement, by the way, at the time a Youth Minister, and now pastor in Texas. He left out on the lease 3 months into a 1 year agreement.
- Another renter, leader in their church, leaves the property with $5,000 in damages, and owing us 3 months worth of rent. This after we had given them 3 months of rent for free. They pay their downpayment on their nice new house with the money they owed us.
- New renter, gives a 2 week notice prior to move out, despite required 30 day notice, and is currently 2 months behind, which means we are behind. Why are they leaving under these conditions? To become missionaries.
- Not all news is bad, we had one renter who honored their commitment, paid on time.
End Result, it is very possible we will end up losing our dream house because of the lack of integrity of those who were professing Christians who didn’t honor their word.
I know one of the things that some will bring up is, about how we need to be forgiving. I agree, and God has given us peace about the fact that if we lose our house, it is not because we have done anything wrong. We have even gone out of our way to help each individual, notice on the one 3 months of free rent we gave them. I wonder though, do we as Christians take it easier on those who don’t practice integrity in their own lives?
I know Christianity has shortcomings, there are reasons we are not as successful as we could be at impressing others with the benefits of Christianity. I know there are some who make excuses and state that I shouldn’t be talking about Christians like this. Let me assure you, I am not speaking about all Christians, I am speaking about hopefully a minority that unfortunately are those that the majority of Non Christians see. I am also speaking on an issue that all Christians can do better at.
The Barna Research published divorce rates data for various beliefs. While atheists and agnostics show a divorce rate of 21%, this rate rises to 24% for Christians and 27% for born-again Christians. Small independent Christian groups have a divorce rate of 34%, Baptists 29%, Protestants 25%, Mormons 24%, Catholics 21% and Lutherans 21% (Barna Research, December 21st 1999). It is clear on the issue of marriage Christians aren’t doing better than those who don’t profess a faith in Christ, in fact, we are doing worse. If this statistic can hold the truth it does for something as important as marriage, something we promote with “Family Values,” how lacking are we in other areas of morality such as integrity? Is it any wonder those who aren’t Christians don’t see any value and reasoning to consider the faith we present?
I have many shortcomings, I know that, but I have tried to be a person of integrity. I try for example to never meet with women alone or without an open door at my house or in my office. I don’t even want to give the appearance of inappropriateness. Lord knows, that Christianity with all of its preachers over the years has had a bad enough example set. We don’t need any more. Don’t take me wrong, I have made tons of mistakes, I have even been week on the aspect of integrity, but about 8 years ago I asked God to help me with this area, and lo and behold, He has.
Exodus 20:7 - Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
Do we realize that when we call ourselves Christians and say that Christ lives within us, that when we lie and don’t honor our obligations, not only do we make ourselves out to be a liar, we make Christ out to be a liar. This is misusing God’s name.
Leviticus 19:12 - Do not misuse my name by making promises you don't intend to keep. I am the LORD your God.
See the above mentioned comments.
Numbers 30:2 - When one of you men makes a promise to the LORD, you must keep your word.
Would you consider a contract necessary, a hand shake, a verbal promise, what?
Matthew 23:16-22 – (16) You are in for trouble! You are supposed to lead others, but you are blind. You teach that it doesn't matter if a person swears by the temple. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gold in the temple. (17) You blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?
(18) You also teach that it doesn't matter if a person swears by the altar. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gift on the altar. (19) Are you blind? Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? (20) Anyone who swears by the altar also swears by everything on it. (21) And anyone who swears by the temple also swears by God, who lives there. (22) To swear by heaven is the same as swearing by God's throne and by the one who sits on that throne.
Again, the theme of consistency and keeping our word.
Matthew 5:33-5:37 – (33) You know that our ancestors were told, "Don't use the Lord's name to make a promise unless you are going to keep it." (34) But I tell you not to swear by anything when you make a promise! Heaven is God's throne, so don't swear by heaven. (35) The earth is God's footstool, so don't swear by the earth. Jerusalem is the city of the great king, so don't swear by it. (36) Don't swear by your own head. You cannot make one hair white or black. (37) When you make a promise, say only "Yes" or "No." Anything else comes from the devil.
Jesus seems to take the concept even further, we shouldn’t really need contracts, our word should be good enough. What ever happened to that?
James 5:12 - My friends, above all else, don't take an oath. You must not swear by heaven or by earth or by anything else. "Yes" or "No" is all you need to say. If you say anything more, you will be condemned.
I’m almost afraid to ask what this concept of condemnation is James is speaking of when he talks keeping our word, or our yes or no being all that we need to say.
1 Timothy 4:12 - Don't let anyone make fun of you, just because you are young. Set an example for other followers by what you say and do, as well as by your love, faith, and purity.
There goes the excuse of, “Well there just too young.” Also clarity as to our actions and words are supposed to match up.
Proverbs 20:7 - A righteous man who walks in his integrity How blessed are his sons after him. (NIV)
Seems to give indication that our integrity, has an impact on our children and those that come to know God through our actions.
Jesus says that if our righteousness is going to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, we must be people of integrity. My question is, are we?
I know there are all kinds of things I can close with. I know many haven’t even begun to consider the consequences of their lack of integrity. I am sure the 3 Christian couples who rented our house and didn’t honor their commitments, never took seriously that their lack of integrity may result in our family losing our dream house that was going to be designated for ministry to inner city and/or poor families to use for a vacation. I am sure some may have never considered their lack of integrity may result in someone watching them deciding that if that is what Christianity is they don’t want anything to do with it, thus having eternal consequences.
In closing I am reminded of a song. A song generally used when thinking of Non Christians, but I think it applies just as much to Christians. The issues are the same, the answers are the same. I found the answers to my issues here with the solution presented in the song. Maybe that solution is not just for non Christians, maybe, just maybe, it is again, once and for all, for Christians as well.
Why Don't You Look Into Jesus
By Larry Norman
Sipping whiskey from a paper cup,
You drown your sorrows till you can't get up,
Take a look at what you've done to yourself,
Why don't you put the bottle back on she shelf,
Yellow fingers from your cigarettes,
Your hands are shaking while your body sweats,
Why don't you look into Jesus, He's got the answer.
Gonorrhea on Valentines Day,
And you're still looking for the perfect lay,
You think rock and roll will set you free,
You'll be deaf before your thirty three,
Shooting junk till your half insane,
Broken needle in your purple vein,
Why don't you look into Jesus, he's got the answer.
You work all night, sleep all day,
You take your money, throw it all away,
You say you're going to be a superstar,
But you've never hung around enough to find out who you really are.
Think back to when you were a child,
Your soul was free, your heart ran wild,
Each day was different, and life was a thrill,
You knew tomorrow would be better still,
Things have changed you're much older now,
If you're unhappy and you don't know how,
Why don't you look into Jesus, He's got the answer.
To become more a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ To learn more about me visit http://www.furches.org/ I am also active on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/mikefurches I have another blog at http://blog.myspace.com/mikefurches To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: http://groups.myspace.com/hollywoodjesus You can contact me via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org