INTEGRITY: THE KEY TO EXEMPLARY CHRISTIAN LIVING
Shivraj K. Mahendra
Integrity is one of the unique attributes of Christian life. It is the most important characteristic of a Christian. It means completeness, wholeness, soundness, honesty, uprightness and sincerity. It involves being truthful, reliable and genuine. Integrity is all about thoroughly being what you are, doing what you say, and saying what you do. It means living a life of faith and obedience, regardless of the outcome. In short, integrity is to personal character what health is to the body.
Why is integrity so significant? This question is best answered in the following question: How many people would accept our religion, based on their observation of the difference it has made in our own lives? People are watching us. They are closely observing and comparing our talk with our walk, our faith with our practice, our commitment with our activities, our messages with our attitudes. Do the people around us find us as men and women of integrity? This is a real challenge for each and every Christian. With this challenge in mind, let us reflect on the contexts or settings of our day-to- day life that demand integrity.
When and where should we practise integrity? True integrity is rooted in a Christian’s private life, where only he/she and God know his/her thoughts and deeds. However, integrity is to be revealed in public life. There are at least three leading contexts, among others, which challenge us to reflect integrity in our life and ministry.
1. Alluring Circumstances. Mrs. Potiphar would have definitely talked with Joseph in an inviting way. She must have looked, what we may call, really glamorous. This seems to be a long term appeal from her part. But the man of God responded to that critical situation with a great sense of integrity. He was conscious of God watching him and was also sensitive to his master’s trust upon him. He had been keeping himself away from her for long and finally he ran away (Gen. 39:7-12). We may or may not face literally what Joseph had to, but there are other temptations, equally or even more dangerous, set to spoil our testimony and ministry within a moment. You could think of the most tempting circumstances you have encountered or that exist (drinking/ stealing/ lying/ sexual immorality) in your particular situations. What did you do? Or, what should you do? Run away from temptations; do not negotiate or argue. In the context of temptation and allurement, a person of integrity says, “My life backs up what I speak. If I confess to be a Christian, then I will not drag the name of my Lord Jesus Christ through the gutter.” Remember, for Joseph, the grip of integrity was greater than that of the alluring option!
2. In Crises. Someone has rightly said, “Nothing reveals one’s character more quickly than problems and pain.” The greatest test of integrity is how we respond to suffering. Here we must consider the great man of integrity, Job. It is needless to say that he alone stands as one who has proven his integrity in a situation we cannot even imagine. When all that we have is gone, every possession is lost, when every part of our body is diseased and everything around us has turned against us, what will be our response? Will we be able to praise God? At the time of persecution, trouble or suffering, most of us will listen to the whisper that says, “Curse….!” Complaining, grumbling and cursing have been likely reactions of the majority. But, in the context of crises and persecution, a person of integrity says, “Shall I receive the good and not the bad from God? (cf. Job 2:9-10 and 1:21). Seeking God in the midst of trouble is the way of the godly. Remember, persisting in integrity will help us triumph in every crisis and give us the privilege to witness the wonder working power of God.
3. On Sunday And Monday. Is our Christianity a mere Sunday Christianity? People among whom we live, interact and minister, are watching us. They watch to see if our behaviour matches our beliefs. They watch to see if what we appear to be on Sunday continues on Monday and all the other days of the week. Have we been sensitive to such observations as these? Do we care what people see in and through us? We must be aware that our attitudes, responses and interactions reflect our doctrines and convictions. The two-faced practices of pulpit righteousness and Sunday spirituality have often been obstacles for both new believers and peoples of other faith. In the context of living one’s faith, every day the person of integrity says, “I will practise what I preach and I will preach what I practise. I will be a genuine Christian on Sunday, Monday and on all the days of my life” (Psa. 15, 1 Pet. 3:15). Remember, unless our life on Sunday matches with life on Monday and the other days, we will not be able to influence the society around us.
Integrity is the one word summary of what Christian ethics is all about. Unfortunately, integrity is discarded upon the altar of fame and opportunity. What we want to achieve is more important than what we are to be. Integrity is lost when we focus on expedience more than excellence, on progress more than purity, on riches more than righteousness. Integrity matters a lot to the one who wants to lead an exemplary Christian life. Our divine call and commitment should, therefore, design our role and responsibility for a radical living and transforming ministry which is possible only with a person of integrity. Therefore, as persons of integrity, shall we say, “We shall not follow the crowd in doing wrong (Exo. 23:2); rather, we shall do the right thing when it costs us something, may be even everything!”