The Importance of Good Character and Integrity - The Spotlight is on You

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, July 30, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

These words directly from the mouth of Jesus indicate the purpose of the Church. I capitalized that word because it is about far more than just your local congregation. These words are about ALL believers in ALL places at ALL times. This goes for whether your local congregation is doing a good job of it in the community or not. You spend most of the hours in your life representing something other than a local church. If you work full-time, you probably represent your employer for at least 30 hours a week. You are almost always representing your family by your last name. If you are an athlete, you represent your team and maybe your school. I could go on, but you see my point that we are almost always representing something or someone beyond ourselves.

If you are a Christian, which means those around you should know it, then you are always representing Jesus. When Jesus spoke the words quoted above, he was teaching his disciples (not just the Twelve but anyone who followed him closely at that time) that their actions would have a powerful influence on what others would think about God. It’s a matter of semantics whether we want to say these people were “Christians” or not, but there is no doubt that, as Jews, they were familiar with this concept. God told them through the prophets and other Old Testament scriptures that things would happen regarding Israel so that the world would know that he is God. This could include unthinkable deliverance and times of rescue, but also consequences for disobedience. God has chosen, at least partially, to reveal himself to the world through his followers, which includes the people of Israel and believers in Jesus Christ who are “ingrafted branches” of Israel (Romans 11:11-24). Even if we don’t really care what others think of us, we must remember that they may be using our actions to judge not only us, but our Savior and God as well.

I have heard many times in the past from others something like, “Integrity is shown by what you do when no one else is looking”. While that may be true, we have to remember that we don’t have even half the amount of control we think we do. You may think you can get away with giving into sin just a little bit because no one will know anyway, but I challenge you to ask yourself if that’s really something you can control. Just because someone can’t see what you’re doing at the moment doesn’t mean it won’t come out or be revealed some other way in the future. And if it does come out, those actions will be judged as if they just happened even if you have forgotten them completely. Plus, there’s always the reality that God sees you at all times and “cannot be mocked” (Galatians 6:7). When we think we have the impact of our decisions and actions under control, we underestimate the damage that is done by bad character and a lack of integrity.

I’d like to share two recent examples from my job that illustrate this point perfectly. When two children were recently taken into protective custody and placed in a foster home, I had to speak to the biological father. He shared that even though he despises the extended family members of the children’s mother, he’d prefer that the children be with them over foster care. He told me that he “knows for a fact” that every foster parent “just does it for the money”, that foster homes usually have one parent for every ten kids, and that the parents usually just put the kids in a back room somewhere and don’t pay attention to them. Now, my experiences working with foster parents so far have been almost entirely positive. I’ve seen nothing like what this man says he “knows for a fact”. However, it only takes one to give the rest of them a bad name. Evidently, this man either had or heard of an experience with specific foster parents that shaped what he thinks about the rest of them. Sadly, we all know there are terrible stories out there that fit the characterizations described by this man. Because a few foster parents have had bad character and no integrity, the thousands of good and loving foster parents out there are not trusted.

The second example has to do with a coworker and friend of mine who does not profess to be a Christian but often likes to talk to me about my beliefs. She called me into her office to share something she saw that bothered her. She proceeded to tell me she saw a bumper sticker that day that read, “You can’t be Christian and pro-choice”. She found the sticker and the driver’s decision to display it completely judgmental and said she feels the person is missing the point of following Jesus. Whether you agree with the sticker’s statement or not, think about the perspective of those who see it and don’t understand why the person feels this way. My friend saw this as that driver taking the place of God in judging who is saved and who isn’t and I completely agreed with her. I told her that I believe giving people the right to slaughter innocent unborn children is not consistent with Biblical teachings about life, but that NOBODY except God gets to decide who is a follower of Jesus and who is not. We can’t decide that just because we feel someone’s political or social views are wrong. My friend said this particular judgmental attitude turns people away from Christ rather than toward him. In my opinion, this type of “speaking for God” that some Christians do is a lack of integrity that others notice.

We must remember that being followers of Jesus comes with great responsibility and does not give us the freedom to judge the salvation of others. Our responsibility, through what we say, do, and display, is to be an example of the grace and truth we have experienced through our relationship with Jesus. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. Once we have been made “new creations”, we are in the spotlight. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18). Later, Paul says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (v. 20a). God’s appeal to the world is that he sent Christ to reconcile us, a bunch of undeserving sinners, back to himself, a holy and righteous God. One of our purposes is to continue carrying that message of reconciliation as representatives of Christ. So ask yourself, what message are you carrying? Is it one of condemnation or reconciliation? Condemnation is real for those who choose not to follow Jesus, but the consequence comes from God, NOT YOU AND ME! I urge you to evaluate your character and integrity as a follower of Christ, because surely others are taking notice.