A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com.
Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Last week we finished with “The Story” as we explored God’s plan to restore us to that face to face relationship he enjoyed with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before their act of disobedience that banished them from that paradise. God has been working ever since to bring us back to him and to teach us to live in community with each other and with him so we might share eternity with him in a new paradise he has created for all who follow him.
Well, as we start something new this week, I thought about a devotional series I read a few weeks ago on integrity. That’s really what God wants from us. To have integrity. To be genuine with him. But in our society today, I’m not sure we even know what integrity means anymore, much less practice it. So I want to take the next few weeks and explore what it means for us to have integrity.
Let’s start with David. He declared in Psalms 25:21, “May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord is in you.” If his understanding of integrity is such that it would protect him from something when he was running for his life from Saul’s army, then I’d like to figure out what that integrity is because I sure need some protecting in this day and age. Satan is alive and well and wants to destroy my soul. Just like he wants to destroy yours. So what is integrity, then.
The dictionary says integrity is, the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Another definition is, the state of being whole and undivided. There are a lot of synonyms we could throw around to maybe help us get a handle on the word. Some like: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness. Or from that second definition things like unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity.
All of those sound good, but I’m not sure that’s where David was going with this when he was talking to God about integrity. We too often fit our good character, principles, ethics, morals, and virtue into our societal code which may or may not be what God is looking for in us. I’m sure you’ve heard the term situational ethics thrown about more than once in the past few years. What’s right depends on the current situation and circumstances. Well, does it? Is God that wishy-washy in his behavior that he changes his rules to fit our circumstances? I doubt it.
David, in our eyes, had every right to defend himself against his accuser, Saul. He was falsely accused. God had already had Samuel anoint him as the next king to sit on the throne of Israel. Samuel had given Saul his pink slip from God. And twice God put Saul into David’s hands, when he relieved himself in a cave and David was close enough to cut off part of his coat. And against when the whole came around Saul slept and David went into the camp and took Saul’s sword and spear. But David was a man of integrity, not someone who adhered to the idea of situational ethics. His integrity kept him on the run instead of in the comfort of the palace. Was that protection? David thought so.
Does fair and decent fit the bill? It depends on who you talk to. Who is to say what is fair. Job didn’t think life was fair when he lost everything but his nagging wife and three friends that told him what a sinner he was. We look at the narrative and look up at God and say the same thing. “God, how is it fair to bring such calamity on such a righteous man?”
Was it fair for the Europeans to blast their way through the native Indians, cut down their forests, deplete their hunting grounds, pollute their rivers and streams, and turn this continent into a new country? They certainly didn’t think so, but their European victors did. And if history had not played out as it did, what would our country be like today? Would we still be living in animal skin huts and trying to forage for deer and buffalo meat for supper? Probably not, but the country would be far different since the Europeans would not have had the land to forge the pioneer spirit that has forged us into the nation we have become. Has it been fair to every group? No. Will it ever be? Not as long as people are involved in the process.
Marx and Stalin thought they could make a fair system work under communist rule. It lasted about 70 years until those that worked hard so that the fruits of their labor went to those that chose not to work so hard. Then no one worked very hard and the Soviet Union finally collapsed. Socialism and communism only work if every single person in the system are highly motivated to give their best to the system. We know humans don’t operate that way because we are inherently selfish. So governments of any flavor are never fair because people are not fair.
Well, what about that decency rule? If you’re old enough, you remember the National Geographic documentaries of newly found tribes in Africa and South America where no one wore clothes. Were they decent? To them they were. To us they were far from it. But even in our society, we have extreme views of what people call decent. Laws can’t dictate decency, though we try. So decency is out of the question if we want to try to define integrity by that norm.
How about ethics? I’ve been to countries where it was impolite to tell a guest something that might hurt their feelings, so lying was okay if you knew the facts would be disturbing. Were they ethical? In their society, absolutely. For me and my colleagues, we were more than frustrated when the facts were discovered later. But as guests around their table drinking tea, everyone needed to be all smiles so were we told what they thought we wanted to hear. Were they wrong? To them it was quite ethical. We were the crazy Americans with stupid ideas.
I could go on down the list of synonyms and pick them apart and find that none of them describe what David saw as protection against his enemies. But I think the second definition will give us some clues about the integrity David and God have in mind when we think about integrity in spiritual terms. Think back on our journey through God’s word over the last eight months. In God’s upper story, he desperately wants to have us return to him in an intimate face to face relationship. He wants to restore that oneness Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall.
So what was that second definition again? Integrity is the state of being whole and undivided. But when Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, a piece of them went missing - the presence of God in their life. They walked with him face to face until they disobeyed. But because of their disobedience, God’s truth, his integrity, his holiness demanded their sin be put away from his presence. So they lost his presence in their life.
Jesus talked over and over about unity among the disciples. He talked about how others would know they belonged to him, by their love for each other. He talked about the oneness between him and the father and that same unity could happen between him and us. Jesus mentored his disciples on togetherness. How to break bread with each other and share their faith. He taught them to overlook that faults and dwell on the spirit that God forgives when we ask him. Jesus talked about a kingdom that is open to anyone who believes. That kingdom is not bound by race or color or nationality. It is bound by faith. By unity. By oneness. Cohesiveness in believing in the one name above all names. Jesus, the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.
I kind of think if David wrote this psalm in twenty-first century vernacular he might say, “God, I’m going to do my best to stick to you like glue. I know that if I do that, you’ve got my back. I don’t need to worry about the things that go on around me because you’re God and I’m not. But together I can make it because you can’t fail. I can’t make it on my own, but my hope, my peace, my joy, my comfort, my assurance is in the one I put my faith in and that’s you, Lord.”
Integrity. It’s not about me or what I think is right or wrong. It’s not about what society thinks is right or wrong, good or bad. I’m not even sure it’s about any in that long list of synonyms that focus on personal character. I think integrity has everything to do with how close I can squeeze up to God and let him carry me through this life wherever he wants to take me. Doing with me whatever he wants to do. Teaching me whatever he wants to teach me. Molding me into the likeness of his son day by day as I obey his voice as he whispers in my ear.
How do you define integrity?
If today’s devotional strikes a cord in you about your personal integrity as it relates to your nearness to God, what will you do about it today? Tomorrow and the next day?
How can you show integrity where you live?
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more about The Story and our part in it. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.