On Integrity

integrity (1)

…though I have enough confidence in Christ to command you to do the right thing, I would rather appeal to you through love (Philemon 8b-9a, Common English Bible)

There are many definitions floating around for a good number of the words in our dictionary. Integrity is no different. Dictionary.com gives three definitions for the word. I am going to start by mentioning the two I am not going to talk about. “The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.” You might use integrity here to say, “I want to preserve the integrity of the empire” (dictionary.com’s sentence). The other says, “a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.” To use this in a sentence we might say, “The crew inspected the ship’s hull to insure its integrity.”

There is another definition of integrity used by Dictionary.com. It says, “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” This is the kind of integrity that jumped into my mind when I read Philemon this morning, this week’s Epistle Lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary.

I found another definition on Vocabulary.com. I found it to be both accurate and entertaining. “Integrity is a personal quality of fairness that we all aspire to — unless you’re a dishonest, immoral scoundrel, of course.”

All this talk of definitions got me to looking around a bit and I found three quotes, that at least to me are more definition really than just a quote. C.S. Lewis said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching.” Tony Dungee said, “Integrity, the choice between what is convenient and what is right.” The comic strip writer Tonya Masse has said, “Integrity: Choosing your thoughts words and actions based on what’s right rather than what’s in it for you.”

Both Dungee and Masse mention doing “what’s right.” That is why when I read Paul’s words to Philemon yesterday when Paul starts talking about Philemon doing what is right. Paul said he could command Philemon to do what is right, but he doesn’t want to do that. You see, even if we assume Paul is correct and he could order Philemon to “do what is right,” that wouldn’t allow Philemon to live out his integrity. Philemon wouldn’t be following through because he wanted to or even because he thought it the right thing to do. He would have been doing so because Paul ordered him to do so.

Paul wanted Philemon to exercise his free will and do “what is right.” It is evident to me that Paul had learned to the importance of free will for God. Paul wanted the slave Onesimus freed, but he wanted even more than Onesimus was freed because his master, Philemon choose to do so. That, is integrity on Paul’s part. And if Philemon frees Onesimus, that would be integrity on Philemon’s part.

You and I are faced with situations fairly frequently where we are caught in a position to “do the right thing” or to do something different. That different might be to make money at the expense of others. It might be to take the fast or easy way out. It might be just to seek our own pleasure. It comes down to, will we do what is right?

Former football coach turned analyst Lou Holtz has said something that I think is helpful here. “I follow three rules. Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” That sounds to me like another pretty good definition of integrity. It seems to me if we can follow Holtz’s three rules, we will be on our way.

I think of all the quotes I have read today on integrity, the one I think most important for we parents to live by is from author H. Jackson Brown Jr. saying, “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.”

For we who call ourselves Christian, integrity must be at the forefront of what we show the world. Our integrity is a vital part of our witness. It is essential to who we are. After all, in the words of Alan Simpson, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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