I’ve always had the idea that integrity was about being honest.
Something about being a straight-shooter. Being trustworthy.
It turns out that Webster’s definition points to similar ideas. Integrity \ 1 : an unimpaired condition: soundness 2 : adherence to a code of moral, artistic or other values 3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided: completeness
Recently I noted the other words that are related to the word integrity. One such word with a related origin is the word, integrate. This word means “to form into a whole….to unite with something else…to incorporate into a larger unit….
Observing the two words together allowed me to see something I had not pondered before. Being a person of integrity means that there should be a continuity of character between who I am/ how I act from one context to another. In other words, what I am in one context should be integrated seamlessly into what I am in any other context.
A life of integrity then, should be one in which all the dots connect. There cannot be a “disconnect” between what I am in one context and what I am in another. People spot a phony from a mile away. An integrated lifestyle is one which exhibits the same virtues in one context as in the next.
My dad used to exhort me to avoid just being a “Sunday” Christian. By that he meant that it does no good to go to church on Sunday if I’m not determined to live my life by that standard during the rest of the week. When I got a part-time job at the age of 15 dad took me aside and instructed me to work just as hard when the boss wasn’t around than when he was close by. That was good advice. It nudged me in the direction of integrity and I’ve never forgotten it.
Jesus was once approached by an expert in the law (Luke 10:25ff) who asked about how to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked the man what is written in the law? The lawyer gave a good answer. He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer’s good answer was followed up by a hint that he might very well have been looking for a legal loophole. He follows with the question, “And who is my neighbor?”
With that prompt, Jesus tells a story of a man beaten and robbed who is ignored and devalued by some who were especially known for talking a good talk. Bad thing is, they didn’t walk the walk. They walked instead to the other side of the road rather than “integrating” their behavior with their law. No doubt, they knew the law….they just didn’t do the law.
No integration = no integrity.
The pivot point of this story involves a Samaritan. The Samaritans as a people did not have a good track record of being consistent. Samaritans as a race were a mixture of some Jewish and other ethnicities. When it was to their favor, they played up their Jewish connections. When it was to their advantage to do otherwise, they would distance themselves from the Jews. But this is a generality, not to be applied to every individual who is a Samaritan. Jesus’ use of a Samaritan as the hero and the Jewish leaders as the slackers gives his story the twist that is so much of a hallmark of his other parables.
Who is a person of integrity?
I propose that the true mark of integrity is to integrate into all phases of ones’ life, the character of God. If there is a disconnect between what we practice and what we preach, the world will be deafened to our speaking of the gospel. Without the integration of word and action, there will be no traction for the words of life. There will be no forward progress toward a transformed society. We will only spin our wheels. God calls us to be people of integrity…..and integration.