Monday, February 17, 2014

Character of God: Integrity

I love these words from the Sermon on the Mount. "Let your yes be 'I'll try,' and your no, be 'maybe.'

What?  That wasn't right?  Sigh.

All joking aside, I know that I am struggling with real integrity of speech.  In a world where we want to make people happy, where we hate to deal with whiny disappointment (from our coworkers as much as our three year olds), where we want to say yes but in fact we know that adding one more commitment is unlikely or even impossible, it is as hard to say yes as it is to say no.

The 15th Psalm describes integrity this way, 

He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
I find that last phrase lingers in my mind.  Integrity begins not with the words that come out of our mouths, but the things we tell ourselves in the echoing chambers of our hearts. Words have come out of my mouth, pure deception, though I had no intention to lie.  What happened?  The words I said to them were the words I said to myself, but I was not telling the truth in my heart. Women do this when they over commit.  "Three Valentines day parties to decorate and bring cookies to?  Sure!"  We also do this when we make excuses, "Well, I'm just really busy and it's hard for me to get to stuff."  Sometimes that is absolutely the truth.  Sometimes it's a big fat lie that I'm not only telling you but I'm telling myself too!

Every time I lie to myself and by extension everyone else, every time I say "yes" and don't come through, every time I make excuses I am billowing hot air. When the truth isn't spoken in my heart, no one can trust the words spilling from my mouth.  Yet, I know that in the heart of God there is nothing but truth; when he speaks the world is shaken.

When God intends, things happen.  From his heart, from before the beginning of the world God the Father gave his beloved Son to create a people and purposed his Spirit to indwell them.  The whole of the Bible is the story of how that came to be.  (John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 9:26, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8)

Cluster MACS J0717.5+3745 The story begins and progresses at his word.  When God spoke a word at creation, planets, stars and galaxies came into being.  When he spoke to Abraham a nation was founded.  When he spoke from heaven, Jesus was revealed to all the world as his beloved son. 

Integrity pours out of us when it begins inside of us.  Our words matter deeply, the ones we whisper inside ourselves in the dark and the ones we shout across the house at noon. God's words bear weight and power; ours can too. 

Everybody remembers a moment when someone spoke weighty words to us. Words that meant something because the speaker could be counted on to speak truth in sincerity. I remember being a young teenager and some beloved surrogate grandparents giving that gift to me.  They were proud of the way I was learning Bible and they said that I should really study.  There's a school of preaching where I grew up and they had a program for women.  They offered to pay my way and talked to me seriously about serious study.  The years I spent double majoring in Bible at Harding were deeply influenced by that single conversation.

I never want my words to hurt.  I don't want to disappoint people by not doing what I said I would do.  I don't want to lie to myself or anyone else. I want my words to count; to have influence. But how?  I have to start by speaking the truth in my heart, by learning to control my tongue, and by desiring holiness and integrity more than the short term acceptance of my acquaintances.   


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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