When you ask somene about what a Christian is, what do you hear? Goody-two-shoes? Unconcerned about current events and issues? Killjoy? Hypocrite? Narrow-minded? Exclusivist? Why do such definitions come?
Our churches today are plagued by an ancient spirit, a school of thought that has been a thorn in the side of the Christian faith since the first century. This is the Greek philosophy of dualism, which blossomed into the heresy of gnosticism. This philosophy states that matter and essence are distinct from each other. Plato even spoke of the Ideal which is supremely superior to the physical objects that we have around us. This then gave rise to the gnoostic thought that the physical is corrupt and evil, as opposed to the spirit which is pure and good. Today, we see this still practiced by Christians in a different form: the separation of the secular from the sacred. We go to church, do quiet time, attend bible studies to feed our souls, but we do not see the need to translate that feeding into our “secular” lives. We are admonished to apply what we’ve learned in our daily lives, but as soon as we’re out the door we forget what we’ve learrned.
Witness: the importance of integrity
Christ gave us the mandate to make disciples of all nations. Thus it is important that we maintain our integrity so that the message we bear will be believeable. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 that we are the letter of Christ, written by the Lord Holy Spirit Himself and read by everybody. It may have been Nietzsche who said “If Christians act more saved, then I might have believed in their Savior.” What Paul said to the Jews could very well be said of us, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” If we do not walk our talk, if our faith is not translated into the good works prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10), then our faith is dead (James 2:26) and God Himself is shamed and blaphemed for we are not only made in His image, but are His children.
But we are honest and sincere, we do want to be Christians of integrity, glorifying God in word and deed. But we can’t seem to do it right. How can we?
Being: the heart of integrity
First, we have to go back to the message that we proclaim: Jesus Christ became man and died on the cross to free us from sin and death, and rose again that all those who believe in Him would rise with Him into new life in Him. Jesus did not say follow these and those rules; He said “Follow Me.” Jesus did not call us to join a new religion; He called us into a new and restored relationship with Himself. Why then are we treating this new relationship as if it were a religion? Because we believe that only the soul matters, that missions is all about saving souls, never mind the temporal needs of people. From this belief in the ultimate importance of the soul comes the belief that once we’ve gone to church, given our tithes, attended Bible study, and performed our church ministries we have done all that is needed to nourish our souls and bless the heart of God, and now we are free to do as we please.
Now we raise that all-important question: What is it that we are pleased to do? What do we enjoy doing? The answer to this question is what tells us what is really in our hearts. Jesus makes a telling comment to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:33-37: A tree is known by its fruit. Good men bring out good things from their heart, and evil men bring out evil things from their hearts. And out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. I would endeavor to say that out of the same overflow the eyes see, the ears hear, the hands move and the feet walk. What we say and what we do naturally shows us what we really believe, over what we say we believe. For as the soul prompts, the body moves. Now based on what we love to do and love to speak about, what is really in our hearts? Who are we?
Christian integrity, then, is simply being a Christian. If you had been born again by the Spirit of God, if you had accepted Jesus’ offer of salvation, if you have submitted to the lordship of God in all areas of your life, if you are seeking to know Him, to love Him, and be like Him, then living a life of Christian integrity is automatic, for you are simply living out what you are and what you truly believe. If you are truly a Christian, then you live as one who had been saved from sin, and hates sin and what it does to people. You live with a consciousness of God’s compassion towards you and thus extend that same compassion to others. You live with a knowledge of what sin did to you and thus treat others kindly and compassionately, familiar with their struggles from personal experience.
Christian Integrity: integration of all under God
In the eyes and the life of the Christian, Christian integrity is the integration of both the secular and the sacred under the lordship of Christ. A Christian is a follower of Christ whether she is in a church setting or in a secular setting. The values of a Christian does not change whether she is doing church ministry or working in an office. The Christian does everything for the glory of God, whether it be work, studies, hobbies, ministry or recreation. Why? Because the Christian is a child of God regardless of where she is, what she is doing, or whom she is with.
But Christian integrity does not mean sinlessness or faultlessness. It means even in sin and fallenness a Christian is a child of God, easily admitting to failure or fault and seeking forgiveness. A Christian of integrity is not a Christian without sin, for that is impossible this side of eternity. A Christian of integrity is a Christian who follows Christ such that, even when she falls, she gets up and continues to follow Him. A Christian of integrity is not one who no longer sins, but one who refuses to let her occasional sins define her.
If you feel you are not living a life of Christian integrity, one of two things could be the problem: Either there is something wrong with your relationship with God, or there is something wrong with what you believe the Christian life is supposed to be. Thus it is all-important to ask this question: Who is God to me, as opposed to who He is supposed to be to me? Am I a child of God? If so, why aren’t we alike? From this we can work on being a Christian by seeking to follow Christ. And as that relationship grows, so will we spiritually, socially, physically, and psychologically.
Note: This message was given at the 6th College Summer Break Camp held by Passionate Community for Christ, Inc. (PCCI) last April 2011 at Ifugao academy, Kiangan, Ifugao Province.