Sometimes we get tired of hearing about moral and ethical failures on the part of those in leadership. Congressmen, CEOs, even presidents all failing and when publicly exposed, denying, blaming others, and worst of all talking religiously. Some of the worst offenders are preachers. I have personally known at least four people in ministry who have taken a serious fall in the area of sexual behavior. Some of these have repented, but not all.
What’s wrong with us? Why do some of us fall and others do not? We are all sinners and capable of what these have done. Maybe some of us just haven’t been caught (yet)!
I’m not trying to either condemn or excuse anyone, but I do believe we need to ask what is missing. And I believe that one missing piece is integrity. We who are in leadership often think differently than we behave, behave differently than we talk, talk differently than we think. We have compartmentalized our lives and failed to integrate them.
The word integrity is defined by Webster as: (1) an unimpaired condition: SOUNDNESS; (2) firm adherence to a code of esp. moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY; (3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided: COMPLETENESS. The related words are helpful in understanding: integer, integral, integrate, all have to do with wholeness. A person of integrity then, is a complete person, one whose life is not fragmented, whose behavior and thinking and speech all fit together, the opposite of what James 1:8 refers to as “a double minded man.”
In his book INTEGRITY, Stephen L. Carter says "Integrity, as I will use the term, requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong. ...” Of course, for the Christian this involves an understanding of the Scriptures.
The Hebrew words usually translated “integrity” are TAM and its related words. Some of the uses are interesting. One form of the word is used to describe sacrificial animals as being “without blemish” (Leviticus 1:3, 10, etc.), or of a period of time being “completed” or “full” (Leviticus 23:15; 25:30). When used of a person, it is often translated “blameless” or “perfect” or “upright” (Deuteronomy 18:13; 1 Samuel 22:24), but the idea is still of a complete person.
One of the best known characters of the Old Testament is the man named Job. He is described in the first verse of the book of Job as “blameless (TAM), upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil.” The word translated “blameless” would be better translated “a man of integrity.” In a sense, the descriptive terms which follow really fill out what integrity means. He was “upright” (in his dealings with others), “fearing (reverencing) God” and “turning away from evil.” In other words, all aspects of his life fit together. Later in the story, after Job had suffered horrible disasters and losses, the LORD could brag on him to Satan, that “he still holds fast his integrity” (Job 2:3). In chapter 31, in response to his three friends who claimed that his sufferings were due to his sin, Job could deny all possible faults and in a sense challenge his detractors to “prove it!”
The book of Proverbs gives many of the practical consequences for a person of integrity. The LORD is his “shield” (2:7). “He who walks in integrity, walks securely” (10:9). “The integrity of the upright will guide them” (11:3). One of my favorites is 20:7: “A righteous man who walks in his integrity – how blessed are his sons after him.”
None of us leads a life of complete integrity. There was only one who could really challenge His challengers with “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46).
I believe this is what our goal in life should be: to be as closely conformed to Christ as it is possible in this life; to live a life like His; to have our thinking, our actions and our speech integrated; to be the same person in our private lives as in our public lives.
Philip Yancey quotes a child psychiatrist as defining character as “how you behave when no one is looking.” The same could be said of integrity.