Friday, May 19, 2006


in·teg·ri·ty ( n-t g r -t ) n.
  1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
  2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
  3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness

Over the years the concept of integrity has intrigued me. I remember as a youth listening to my grandfather, one of the wisest men I ever knew despite the fact that he only had a 3rd grade education saying, “If a man ain’t got his word, he ain’t got nothin’”

Now those were the days, the days when a handshake meant something and a promise was good enough to bank on. Something has happened over the years. I don’t know when, I suspect it has been there all along but on the concept of integrity, my life experiences have not been all that positive.

I know Christians are supposed to be different, I have always known that, even since my youth. It was one of the reasons I rejected Christianity for so long. I had seen people professing a life changing faith in Christ, yet living lives far from the example.

I realize from the very outset of this blog, my perceptions have been skewed, unfortunately for the worse, not the better. A brief scenario as to my life experiences with Christians.

  • My grandparents were professing Christians and so was pretty much everyone else in the south. Yet, there was racism in the comments of many within my family, and my own father had a violent temper, reportedly killing a man once in a fight.
  • I begin to be abused as a small child, both physically and sexually by guess who? Christians.
  • After I got saved I was pretty much homeless. Those in the church knew it, but did nothing to help. I had one person offer to help me from the church. That was great and the money was nice but he had more of in interest in me sexually than anything else.
  • I went to a “Christian” college, had the world promised to me, all kinds of expenses would be taken care of and on and on. Did it happen that way? Wrong!
  • I was a part of a start up church the pastor was dedicated to the body, for about 3 months when he left us all high and dry.
  • I worked in Christian music in its early days. Had concerts booked and places to play. Churches payed part of what they agreed to about 6 out of 10 times. The other 4 out of 10 times, they didn't pay at all. By the way, the non Christian concerts we did later paid 10 out of 10 times and a lot more money.
  • Over the last few years my experience with Christian renters. Now understand, my family is not wealthy, we get by from month to month, just like most people. We certainly don’t have the money to pay our expenses in Wichita plus for the upkeep of our house in Oklahoma which we rent out.
  • First our Christian Real Estate Property Manager. Lies, wouldn’t return phone calls, didn’t take care of the property or do her job, even kept horrible records and didn't collect our payments as were agreed upon.
  • We have rented the property to 4 different renters over the course of the last 4 years, all claiming to be Christians. Only one honored their lease. One went so far that when we tried to collect damages on the house they refused to help because we expected him to honor his agreement, by the way, at the time a Youth Minister, and now pastor in Texas. He left out on the lease 3 months into a 1 year agreement.
  • Another renter, leader in their church, leaves the property with $5,000 in damages, and owing us 3 months worth of rent. This after we had given them 3 months of rent for free. They pay their downpayment on their nice new house with the money they owed us.
  • New renter, gives a 2 week notice prior to move out, despite required 30 day notice, and is currently 2 months behind, which means we are behind. Why are they leaving under these conditions? To become missionaries.
  • Not all news is bad, we had one renter who honored their commitment, paid on time.

End Result, it is very possible we will end up losing our dream house because of the lack of integrity of those who were professing Christians who didn’t honor their word.

I know one of the things that some will bring up is, about how we need to be forgiving. I agree, and God has given us peace about the fact that if we lose our house, it is not because we have done anything wrong. We have even gone out of our way to help each individual, notice on the one 3 months of free rent we gave them. I wonder though, do we as Christians take it easier on those who don’t practice integrity in their own lives?

I know Christianity has shortcomings, there are reasons we are not as successful as we could be at impressing others with the benefits of Christianity. I know there are some who make excuses and state that I shouldn’t be talking about Christians like this. Let me assure you, I am not speaking about all Christians, I am speaking about hopefully a minority that unfortunately are those that the majority of Non Christians see. I am also speaking on an issue that all Christians can do better at.

The Barna Research published divorce rates data for various beliefs. While atheists and agnostics show a divorce rate of 21%, this rate rises to 24% for Christians and 27% for born-again Christians. Small independent Christian groups have a divorce rate of 34%, Baptists 29%, Protestants 25%, Mormons 24%, Catholics 21% and Lutherans 21% (Barna Research, December 21st 1999). It is clear on the issue of marriage Christians aren’t doing better than those who don’t profess a faith in Christ, in fact, we are doing worse. If this statistic can hold the truth it does for something as important as marriage, something we promote with “Family Values,” how lacking are we in other areas of morality such as integrity? Is it any wonder those who aren’t Christians don’t see any value and reasoning to consider the faith we present?

I have many shortcomings, I know that, but I have tried to be a person of integrity. I try for example to never meet with women alone or without an open door at my house or in my office. I don’t even want to give the appearance of inappropriateness. Lord knows, that Christianity with all of its preachers over the years has had a bad enough example set. We don’t need any more. Don’t take me wrong, I have made tons of mistakes, I have even been week on the aspect of integrity, but about 8 years ago I asked God to help me with this area, and lo and behold, He has.

Before going into this any further, I think it is a good idea to look at what the Bible says about integrity. All Scripture comes from the Contemporary English Version.

Exodus 20:7 - Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.

Do we realize that when we call ourselves Christians and say that Christ lives within us, that when we lie and don’t honor our obligations, not only do we make ourselves out to be a liar, we make Christ out to be a liar. This is misusing God’s name.

Leviticus 19:12 - Do not misuse my name by making promises you don't intend to keep. I am the LORD your God.

See the above mentioned comments.

Numbers 30:2 - When one of you men makes a promise to the LORD, you must keep your word.

Would you consider a contract necessary, a hand shake, a verbal promise, what?

Matthew 23:16-22 – (16) You are in for trouble! You are supposed to lead others, but you are blind. You teach that it doesn't matter if a person swears by the temple. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gold in the temple. (17) You blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?

(18) You also teach that it doesn't matter if a person swears by the altar. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gift on the altar. (19) Are you blind? Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? (20) Anyone who swears by the altar also swears by everything on it. (21) And anyone who swears by the temple also swears by God, who lives there. (22) To swear by heaven is the same as swearing by God's throne and by the one who sits on that throne.

Again, the theme of consistency and keeping our word.

Matthew 5:33-5:37 – (33) You know that our ancestors were told, "Don't use the Lord's name to make a promise unless you are going to keep it." (34) But I tell you not to swear by anything when you make a promise! Heaven is God's throne, so don't swear by heaven. (35) The earth is God's footstool, so don't swear by the earth. Jerusalem is the city of the great king, so don't swear by it. (36) Don't swear by your own head. You cannot make one hair white or black. (37) When you make a promise, say only "Yes" or "No." Anything else comes from the devil.

Jesus seems to take the concept even further, we shouldn’t really need contracts, our word should be good enough. What ever happened to that?

James 5:12 - My friends, above all else, don't take an oath. You must not swear by heaven or by earth or by anything else. "Yes" or "No" is all you need to say. If you say anything more, you will be condemned.

I’m almost afraid to ask what this concept of condemnation is James is speaking of when he talks keeping our word, or our yes or no being all that we need to say.

1 Timothy 4:12 - Don't let anyone make fun of you, just because you are young. Set an example for other followers by what you say and do, as well as by your love, faith, and purity.

There goes the excuse of, “Well there just too young.” Also clarity as to our actions and words are supposed to match up.

Proverbs 20:7 - A righteous man who walks in his integrity How blessed are his sons after him. (NIV)

Seems to give indication that our integrity, has an impact on our children and those that come to know God through our actions.

Jesus says that if our righteousness is going to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, we must be people of integrity. My question is, are we?

I know there are all kinds of things I can close with. I know many haven’t even begun to consider the consequences of their lack of integrity. I am sure the 3 Christian couples who rented our house and didn’t honor their commitments, never took seriously that their lack of integrity may result in our family losing our dream house that was going to be designated for ministry to inner city and/or poor families to use for a vacation. I am sure some may have never considered their lack of integrity may result in someone watching them deciding that if that is what Christianity is they don’t want anything to do with it, thus having eternal consequences.

In closing I am reminded of a song. A song generally used when thinking of Non Christians, but I think it applies just as much to Christians. The issues are the same, the answers are the same. I found the answers to my issues here with the solution presented in the song. Maybe that solution is not just for non Christians, maybe, just maybe, it is again, once and for all, for Christians as well.

Why Don't You Look Into Jesus
By Larry Norman

Sipping whiskey from a paper cup,

You drown your sorrows till you can't get up,

Take a look at what you've done to yourself,

Why don't you put the bottle back on she shelf,

Yellow fingers from your cigarettes,

Your hands are shaking while your body sweats,

Why don't you look into Jesus, He's got the answer.


Gonorrhea on Valentines Day,

And you're still looking for the perfect lay,

You think rock and roll will set you free,

You'll be deaf before your thirty three,

Shooting junk till your half insane,

Broken needle in your purple vein,

Why don't you look into Jesus, he's got the answer.


You work all night, sleep all day,

You take your money, throw it all away,

You say you're going to be a superstar,

But you've never hung around enough to find out who you really are.


Think back to when you were a child,

Your soul was free, your heart ran wild,

Each day was different, and life was a thrill,

You knew tomorrow would be better still,

Things have changed you're much older now,

If you're unhappy and you don't know how,

Why don't you look into Jesus, He's got the answer.

To become more a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, To learn more about me visit I am also active on MySpace at: I have another blog at To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: You can contact me via email at or


Blogger John Three Thirty said...

Reading this post brought to mind a couple of thoughts.

• I think the Body in general does a pretty lousy job distinguishing between integrity and flexibility.

God is true. He has integrity. Yet at the same time he is flexible. Or, for those who still recall the high school chemistry term, He is malleable.

There's a large portrayal of God as this unmovable, static Creator whose Way is the law or else.

You know what I'm talking about. The t-shirts and bumper stickers that say "God says it. I believe it. That settles it!"

Along this line, the Followers who will take a puffed-chest 'stand for God' when saying things like "we believe in the unquestionable authority of the inerrant, infallible Word of God!"

Now, Jesus says "I am the one comes to Father except through Me" and 2 Timothy mentions the "all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, correcting...", etc.

I'm not making light of these passages. I'm saying the Body seems to interpret this as a blank slate to take a harsh, rigid stance that is unattractive, unrelatable and, quite frankly, doesn't seem to be the way Jesus relates to doubters, scorners and skeptics.

This rigidity is shrouded behind the phrase(s) of "scriptural integrity" and "Christian integrity". The Follower walks away, and those on the outside remain distant or even more calcified.

(This eerily reminds of a story Jesus tells about a religious man who proudly thanks God he is not like others (evildoers). luke 18. Ouch.)

• I question whether the rigidity of this common "take a bold stand for God and His Word" approach is the Way. This seems to indicate that God is set in His ways, period.

And yet we clearly see in the Bible time and time again how God changes His approach, changes the way He deals with things.

There was a time God had decided He was going to deliver punishment X for sin Y to a group of people. David prayed and said "Lord, that's too harsh. Don't go so strong on them." And God relented and said "You're right", and softened His stance on those whom He was going to really smack.

Haven't we also seen God change His whole approach to this human race thing? The fall by Adam/Eve screwed up Plan A, and eventually became so bad God wiped earth clean and literally started over after the Flood.

He then issued the Commandments and Law. Well, that didn't work out so well either, scrap Plan B and let's send them Prophets to teach, instruct and warn folks.

Well, that was hit/miss, so scrap the Prophets, Plan C, and let's settle this once and for all with Jesus' atonement.

This is a simple paraphrase, but doesn't this show us God is flexible? that even though He is just that He is influenced by prayer to change things from D to E?

I really do question this unbendable, stalwart idea of God.

And that is why the teaching of God as a father is so huge. He is a Father.

He has emotions, He has thoughts. He can change His mind. Sometimes, yes, He is stern, but He is also soft like a teddy bear when His kids call Him "Daddy" and come to Him for protection.

The parallel of fatherhood that Jesus told us is so on the mark. And yet, some portray God as the perpetual drill instructor to whom we better acquiesce or else.

That's not the Father I know. Knowing Him is dynamic. It is a relationship filled with love, tension, compassion, doubts, teaching, questions, sternness, laughter, anger, jokes, guidance, etc.

Just like a human relationship with a father, only this one is with the Creator.

I hear folks who talk about the Bible being filled with contradictions.

They're right. It is. So why some Followers get stammered when hearing this and blurt "No it's not! How dare you!" is a mystery to me.

Jesus says "turn the other cheek", but He also says "I give you power to trample on snakes and scorpions".

Jesus says "My Peace I give you, not as the world gives, give I unto you". Jesus also says "I came not to bring peace but division".

We read in the New Testament of love being gentle and kind, and all the things about love in 1 Corinthians 13.

And yet Jesus also says "I came to bring fire to the earth, and oh how I wish it were already kindled!" and "“I will come to you and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth”.

There was one time when Jesus sent His disciples out and said "don't take anything with you. Don't take a bag, a purse, sandals or anything." Then later he said "I told you that before, but now I tell you if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag, and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

Again, here we have the living Word, Jesus, showing flexibility and saying "you've heard X, but now I tell you Y", and "I told you A before, but now it's B".

So people who aren't Followers are making legitimate statements about the variance and contradictions within the Bible, and some Followers are screaming "No there's not! No there's not!"

How foolish are these representatives of the Way among us?

This bullshit some among us do reminds me of something Jesus says:

"You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."

Ouch. Truth hurts.

We get so offended and defensive to bristle against people that we don't see that their bitterness means that somewhere there is pain going on.

And we're so blinded with making sure we say "Don't talk bad about God, don't blaspheme Him or anything about Him" that we don't instead say "man, this person defies Jesus, but they've taken the time to look in the book they don't believe in and the person they're skeptical of to find these points they're pointing out".

Are we largely missing the forest for the trees?

It seems we're more concerned with being "right" than being compassionate.

We're more concerned with "defending the faith" verbally than demonstrating the faith with actions and compassion.

Don't we know Jesus faced scorn and ridicule and jeers and lies when He introduced this new unthinkable paradigm to the religious? And what did He do? Spend the overwhelming majority of His time defending everything He did or said?

Not really. He spent the majority of His time hanging out with people who had been shunned and snubbed by the religious, and He healed those who had the guts to believe in the supernatural.

When He was drilled with questions, Jesus largely responded with even deeper questions.

(This is not a battlecry that Followers should come up with cutesy, unanswerable questions to sling at unbelievers when the faith is questioned. That's missing the point in more ways than one.)

Later when He was questioned at the end, Jesus was silent. He opened not His mouth.

A final thought on integrity versus flexibility.

I used to be of this "my word is my bond" camp, and "if I don't do what I'm telling you I'm going to do that means I'm either dead or laid up in a hospital".

Honoring our word does show integrity, and does foster goodwill with others.

Yet it seems just as God is flexible, we should be too.

Not so much in terms of paying our rent or things like that. (There's an admonition in the bible that Followers should not use freedom in Jesus as a cover up for doing uncool things.)

Rather there is a bad message going out to people by transposing integrity-related rigidity over into other areas of the Way where rigidity has no place.

This is a huge turnoff to outsiders. Stuff like this leads to people saying "I can't hear what you're saying for what you're doing".

The Way is about freedom, not bondage.

Unfortunately, there is a wealth of portraying the Way as following religious codes, regulations and shoulds/shouldn'ts.

We're missing the mark in making it about this instead of a fathering relationship.

There's one other thing I'd like to bring up about your post, but it's for a different thread.

7:16 AM  

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