“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” (Psalm 15:1, 4b)1
As Anabaptists, we are taught early on of the importance of following through on what we say. Honesty, consistency, reliability – these are pivotal character qualities for us, and I dare say we’ve done well at retaining them. Many of our communities are founded on collective integrity, and our businesses flourish because of our reputation of being trustworthy folk.
Yet, sin has a way of uprooting even the sincerest intentions, and none of us are free from the temptation to bend the rules when it’s convenient. Often, our integrity flows only from tradition or good morals, but when that’s all we have, we will break when strained. Our testimony, our faith, and indeed, even our Christianity are at risk when we fail to maintain our integrity.
Article 17 of the Mennonite Confession of Faith confirms that “It is a major Christian obligation to be strictly truthful and transparent in life and doctrine, with no secrecy or hypocrisy,”2 and that kind of truthfulness comes through true faith. It is a result and outworking of our inward belief. It was – and still is – deeper than our Anabaptist culture, so let’s take a closer look at the Christian foundation for living lives of integrity.
Christian integrity is built on a solid, two-fold foundation – the character of God and the testimony of His Word.
God is truth, through and through. He does not, indeed, He cannot lie. In fact, His very words define truth, and nothing can change what He has said. And what He says, He does. Always. He comes through, perfectly fulfilling all He promised. He upholds His word. We must then, as His beloved, model His character in our own small way. We give others a glimpse of this as we engage them daily. We are truthful, trustworthy, faithful, so that others can see, appreciate, and love the steadfastness of our God.
Second, God encourages and demands our integrity through His Word. Psalm 15, which has been quoted at the beginning of this article, details the character and conduct of the man loved by God. This man follows through, or specifically, he “swears to his own hurt and does not change.” The necessity of integrity is not determined by convenience, personal benefit, or recognition. God’s people are faithful regardless of the consequences. And from where do we draw that ability? As John Piper has noted, “The issue is trust. Will we trust God to come through for us in his way and in his time?”3 Our ability to confirm our promises is dictated by our ability to trust that God will provide even when we don’t see how.
This theme is expanded in the New Testament. Jesus, in His noteworthy sermon (Matt. 5-7), touched on how His followers are to view oaths. Rather than swearing oaths vainly, or even sincerely, we ought to be so marked by honesty and truth that our “Yes” or “No” means exactly that. James essentially quotes Christ a number of years later, adding a warning of judgment for the unfaithful. These both clearly, directly affirm the necessity of Christian integrity. The overarching principle, then, is faithful, consistent action based on our word, along with intentional truthfulness in every arena of our lives.
Integrity stretches beyond just an important character trait or a communal strength: it’s rooted in the very nature of God. Consistent trustworthiness is an essential part of our faith, and we are scarcely Christian without it.
So, here’s where you come in. Where do you see need for growth in personal integrity? What about within your community? Your denomination? How have you struggled with maintaining integrity in the past? What has helped you understand or appreciate Christian integrity? Please comment below.
|Julian Stoltzfus currently resides in Elnora, IN and is taking part in a pastoral apprenticeship program under Truth and Grace Mennonite Church. He had the privilege of attending several semesters at Elnora Bible Institute since 2014. When not working at K&K Industries, he enjoys diving into a good read, exploring the diverse beauties of music, or fortifying relationships with family and friends. The 5th of 6, he has greatly benefited from the wisdom and influence of his parents and siblings. He longs to see authentic Christianity thrive as God transforms hearts through the Gospel.
- The Holy Bible: NKJV, New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. Print.
- Mennonite Confession of Faith, 1963. GAMEO. Web. 13 Dec. 2017. <www.gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Confession_of_Faith,_1963#Article_17._Christian_Integrity>
- Piper, John. “What to Do When You Have Made an Expensive Mistake.” Desiring God, Web. 13 Dec. 2017. <www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-to-do-when-you-have-made-an-expensive-mistake.>