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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Word For The Week

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No"; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Matthew 5:33-37
Integrity.

One thing that I have learned in my limited existence on Earth is the absolute necessity of personal integrity. You can disagree with a person of integrity and still respect and work with them. You can fight tooth and nail against a person of integrity and remain civil or even friendly after the battle. You can oppose with every fiber of your being that which a person of integrity proposes and still honor their character in fighting for that which they earnestly believe. One of the things that drew me to Howard Dean's campaign was his clear-cut character - he said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had the personal integrity to stand against the war in Iraq when certain senators were voting for it before they voted against it. He had the personal integrity to call out the Democratic Party for being too insular and excluding people with confederate flags on the back of their pickup trucks. He had the personal integrity to call for the breakup of major multi-media conglomerates even though big media can make or break a presidential campaign. Each of these stands cost Howard Dean in his campaign for president, and the biggest problem that I had with Howard Dean was when he folded under pressure regarding the confederate flag comment, compromising his integrity by apologizing for a comment that needed no apology but instead needed to be expanded upon and defended.

Just like so many Bible-believing Christians fold up every day.

How many Christians blend into society and hide their faith? How many Christians speak of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ only in circles where such talk is "safe"? How many Christians apologize for their exclusive belief in Jesus Christ, that the only way to the Father is through the Son, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father but through Him? How many times do Christians straight up punk out? We don't need any more punk Christians, we need men and women of integrity - men and women with the character to stand firm for the Kingdom of God, men and women with the character to stand firm on the Word of God, men and women with the character to stand firm under pressure because this world will surely resist the message of reconciliation, the message that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and that in order for the world to appropriate that which Jesus has done on our behalf they have to accept His atoning work and lordship.

But how will they believe our message if we have no personal credibility?

With too many Christians our "No" mean "maybe" and our "Yes" mean "probably not." With too many Christians our personal credibility is no better than the average political promise. With too many Christians our word means next to nothing, so when we try to speak on matters of eternal importance the world has but one thing to say - whatever. That is not the fault of the world. That is not the fault of the lost and the dying. That is not the fault of those who we are trying to reach - that is purely our fault, and it perpetually poisons our personal credibility when we fail to admit as much; it shows our true character.

When we say "Yes" we must be consistent with it. "Yes" means "yes", no matter what. When we say, "I do" it can't mean "I might, unless we drift apart." When we tell people that we will do something then the job must get done, no matter the personal sacrifice that must be made. When we tell people that we will not do something then no matter how enticing the temptation we must be steadfast in our refusal to participate in it. Our problem is that we try to tell people that sex is between one man and one woman within the context of marriage while preachers are "laying hands" on church secretaries, priests are having "relations" with altar boys, and high profile men of the cloth are ousted for having adulterous affairs, even with gay prostitutes. And we want to talk about sex? You know what the world has to say - whatever.

Let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No."

We all (well, most of us) mean well, and when we make these vows and promises we usually mean it at the time, but too often our $10 mouths write checks that our 5ยข behinds can't cash. We like to look big with our big talk but when our worldly walk can't keep up we come across as hypocritical fools, and that perception is dead accurate. We have to learn how to live a life of integrity, how to live a life of righteousness, and sometimes that means telling people that you just don't know. I am a world-class know-it-all - I am conversant on most things and I can pretty much piece together the things that I don't know much about - but even I have to say, "You know what, I really don't know" from time to time. Why did over 60 million Americans vote for George W. Bush in 2004? I don't know. Why did the Democratic Party think that John F. Kerry was the best choice for its presidential candidate in 2004? I don't know. Why did Tony Romo choke away a potential Cowboys victory? I don't know. "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable answer, and so is, "That's none of your business" - living a life of integrity doesn't mean giving everyone Carte Blanche with your personal life; it does mean that if they happen to reveal everything about your personal life then nothing would be revealed about which you should be ashamed. We have to be consistent with our talk and our walk, not by reducing our talk to the level of our walk but by raising our walk to the level of Jesus' walk - then we'll consistently have the credible character to talk as Jesus talked. When we live a life of integrity we don't need an outside source to validate the truthfulness of our words. When we live a life of integrity we don't need to put our hand on a Bible for people to know that we are telling the truth. When we live a life of integrity the fact that we are speaking means that we are speaking truthfully, that our "Yes" means "Yes" and our "No" means "No," and we who are called by the name of Jesus Christ are commanded to live a life of integrity.

Integrity - credible character lived consistently; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to live a life of personal integrity,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM

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