The 2 Primary Things That Challenge Our Integrity

When we think of “integrity,” we tend to think about moral character. A person of integrity is a principled person; someone who is committed to doing what is right regardless of the circumstances or the audience. But true integrity is more than that – in some ways, integrity is also about personal unified. It means that a person is not one way in private and another way in public, not one way when they are with their family and another when they are on a stage. They are the same person, all the time.

That’s certainly a worthwhile goal, isn’t it? Especially since each of us is a chameleon to one degree or another. That is, we at least face the temptation to adjust ourselves according to our audience. But to grow in Christ means, at least in part, to grow not only in our public persona; it means growing in our consistency. To be people who are more “whole.”

But that pursuit has its challenges. I mean, you can do a quick search of public people who have had a moral fall, whether inside the church or out of it, and readily identify a bunch of those challenges. You might say that sexual temptation was a challenge. Or that money was a challenge. Or that power was a challenge. All true. And yet there are other challenges – deeper ones – that wear these apparent challenges like masks. These deeper challenges are of the heart variety – they are the temptations that get us at the core, striking at the deepest parts of who we are. And when you start to look past the most visible challenges to these deeper ones, the list gets a lot leaner.

In fact, there might be only two primary challenges to our integrity: fear and love.

1. Fear.

The Bible has much to say about fear. On the one hand, we are told to “fear not” over and over again. On the other hand, we are told to “fear the Lord” over and over again. These are obviously two different kinds of fear, and much of the difference is about the object of that fear.

When we are afraid, we might be afraid of disease, or economic downturn, or the unknowns of tomorrow, or whatever. But if we pull the thread of that fear, we will likely find that the focus at the end of that fear is ourselves. We fear what will happen to us. In the end, regardless of what particular entity inspires that fear in us, we are still focusing on ourselves. Our future. Our well-being. Our comfort.

But the fear of the Lord is different. The end of that thread is God Himself. When we fear the Lord, we are growing in our understanding, awe, and love of His character and power. Our eyes are fixed on Him, and when we are focused on Him, we find this holy reverence rising up inside of us. He dominates our gaze because He is too big to share that focus with anyone or anything else.

So when the object of our fear gets misplaced, it ends up challenging our integrity because we find ourselves willing to compromise in any number of areas in order to preserve ourselves. Our standing. Our reputation. Our comfort. Our self-image.

2. Love.

Similarly, “love” is obviously a good thing in the Bible. “God is love,” after all, and not only that, but “love” is the primary characteristic that should mark the followers of Jesus (1 John 4:8; John 13:35). The Christian should have both a vertical and horizontal component to love, with one directly impacting and feeding the other. When we know we are loved by God (vertical), then we will express that same love to those around us (horizontal). In the same way, we cannot truly claim to love God if we are in no way loving in the horizontal relationships of our lives.

But like fear, the object of that love can easily shift. We can begin to love the things of the world. The praise of people. The gifts of God rather than the giver of the gifts. When our love shifts, then our integrity is at stake because, as in the case of fear, we are suddenly willing to sacrifice anything for that which we truly love.

Fear and love. These are the two things, at the root, that challenge our integrity. But the opposite is also true. If we want to live lives of integrity, then it’s not enough to simply decide to live in a moral fashion. No, true integrity is born from true security. It comes from knowing who God is, and then knowing who we are in light of who He is. It comes from fearing the Lord, and then loving Him above all else because we know He has first loved us.

People of integrity aren’t just those who make good decisions. They are people driven by fear and love. The right kind of fear and love.

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1 Comment

  • Travis says:

    Good word, Michael! Certainly insightful to me. Hope you and your family is all doing well!

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