What an age we find ourselves in. It’s an era of taking postures, keeping up appearances and outing anyone whose logic is faulty or whose actions haven’t measured up to their ideals. I see teachers and leaders issuing statements and caveats, and now that everyone has their own small platform it seems we are all required to take a “stance” on one side or another in order to keep apace.
Doesn’t it all seem a bit bewildering? How can we maintain our sanity if we are constantly being bombarded with demands to draw a line in the sand on this issue or that?
If I may be honest (indeed, I must), I am really grappling with the concept of integrity right now. I find my world challenged lately, the type of shift that happens every few years when maturity demands that I question things I once took for granted. I’m left wondering whether my inner beliefs are reflected in the life I choose to live.
For me, the strongest motivator in my life is my trust in Jesus; this is the backdrop for everything I value. And yet, are my actions consistent with my belief? Is my world structured around living out the love and trust central to his teachings? As I shift my mindsets lately, I’m forced to examine the fabric of my life and see whether it measures true to my ideals.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but has no actions to prove it? Is such ‘faith’ able to save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, and someone says to him, ‘Shalom! Keep warm and eat hearty!’ without giving him what he needs, what good does it do? Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead. But someone will say that you have faith and I have actions. Show me this faith of yours without the actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions!” (James 2:14-18 CJB)
Lately, I’m being challenged to integrate my life. I find myself confronted with a sharp realization: we all have some measure of influence on the people in our lives. This goes far beyond the temporal facade of social media, often decried for its superficiality and one-dimensional commentary on life. In all areas of life, we are influencing others, normalizing behaviors and attitudes by our words and actions. It’s a bit frightening, quite frankly. It feels vulnerable. It’s a big responsibility.
In the Christian faith, influence is embraced as discipleship (a mandate from Christ just before his ascension, see Matthew 28). Because of my faith, I am motivated to make sure my influence is pure and right. Discipleship is bringing people into your life and saying, “walk this way with me.” It’s impossible to do discipleship without integrity. The inner world of values must be integrated with the outer world of actions. (The inside of the house must match the outside. Whitewashed sepulchers, anyone?)
Taking a stance on an issue is tempting. We can write a statement and tweet it out, or simply repost from someone we agree with. The issues all look black and white on paper, especially if someone else has already done our thinking for us. I think when we do this, we want to align ourselves with people we respect. We’re looking for validation by belonging to a group of people we approve of.
But perhaps more egregiously, we are ignoring the very real people in our daily lives who don’t need our statements. My sisters, my son, my friends need empathy. The homeless man on the corner needs food tonight. The woman considering an abortion needs support, help, a friend. The homosexual man needs a revelation of his identity as a cherished child of God.
When we have integrity, it isn’t as simple as forming a broad opinion. The people in our lives are going to emulate our attitudes, and they need our honesty. They need real, concrete love and the Good News of Christ. There isn’t much room for our stances when our hearts are overflowing with love. Grace is the truth given with mercy. A hand to hold while we get our mindset in order. God has given me grace — and now I must turn and offer it to the souls around me.
Here’s a challenge for you this week: Read and meditate on Luke 6:20-49. The words of Jesus sound radical to us even now. What is God saying to you through these scriptures?