The unrelenting news dribble regarding sexual harassment, political corruption, and the unmasking of cultural celebrities/icons is revealing a collapsing “House of Cards.” As church members and leaders, we have our own issues with a lack of integrity in our character and the image that we have portrayed. I, too, am to be counted among the hypocrites and worst of sinners. The prophets, the apostles and Jesus relentlessly called God’s people to be real, deep, and sincere. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). Two of the primary metrics for heart integrity is a genuine and active love for one another and for those in need (Zechariah 7).
The reason that this integrity is so vital is that this kind of gospel-love is vital for our mission. “…I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). Multiple studies are demonstrating how our lack of integrity in this active love for one another and those in need is a strong repellent for millennials and many others. On the other hand, we know throughout history that it has been the supernatural and sacrificial love of Christians that has drawn the attention and embrace of those on the outside.
So how do we get and maintain this kind of gospel integrity? We can be relieved that it does not depend on our floundering best efforts or promises to try harder. Again, in Zechariah 7, God responded to his hard-hearted, clueless, going-through-the motions people by turning them into slaves and strangers in this world. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day perpetuated their own house of cards. And then Jesus submitted himself to be bound and killed at the hands of blind, cowardly and self-preserving hypocrites so that we could be set free for a life of sacrificial and reckless love. He became a stranger so that we will always have a place to call home.
Thank God that integrity doesn’t mean that we will have it all together. It means that you are humbly depending on Christ—every day—through prayer and repentance—for your love and obedience. “Sleep with clean hands, either kept clean all day by integrity or washed clean at night by repentance” (John Donne).