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What do you think of when you hear the word – integrity. If you are like me, you think of the first definition given in most dictionaries: A person of integrity is someone with sound, incorruptible principles. Those who keep to a well defined code of moral values.
Webster’s has two more definitions worth considering. Something has integrity if is sound, or complete. Whole.
When you take all three together, you get a pretty good handle on the theme of the book of James. I’m Reid Ferguson, and integrity is our theme today on Through the Word in 2020 as we consider Luke 20:9–26; Psalm 119:153–160; Hebrews 13:20–James 1:1 and Proverbs 29.
James has always been a controversial book, especially since the Reformation. Martin Luther is reported to have called it an “epistle of straw.” He couldn’t quite wrap his head around its call to right actions when contrasted with the Gospel of grace. I’ll just have to forgive him on that one. In truth, there is no dichotomy between the 2 at all. Not if we think in terms of integrity: That what a person professes to believe and be, ought to be borne out by their actions and lifestyle. That a Christian must have more than his or her theology correct. They need to live it.
Because there is nothing more demonstrative of Christ Himself, than to be a person of no contradictions. Whole. Entire. Complete.
James has in mind as his audience, Jewish believers who have suffered greatly by being chased out of their native land due to persecution. His remarks are not about mere trials of inconvenience or not getting their preferences. This is about when life as a Christian finds you suffering – really suffering. And, that some of that suffering at the very least – is directly connected to your being a Christian in the first place. It is to such people – not enduring trifles of difficulty, but in some cases bankrupted, robbed of home and possessions, driven from family and all that is familiar, prejudice, denial of employment and for some even physical harm. Truly persecuted, not merely inconvenienced. Those who have been stripped of their rights; with no hope of seeing things set right in their lifetime.
When that is the case, will we live according to our profession – in integrity? Or will we talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk? Is our profession of faith fully integrated into every part of how we think, feel and live?
This is what we see in Jesus don’t we? It is exemplified for us in John 13:1 “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Beloved, our entire salvation rests in the perfect integrity of Jesus Christ. For Him to say, think and do nothing other than who and what he was – the Son of God. His sinlessness. To live with no hint of self-contradiction. Living in absolute harmony inwardly and outwardly.
And that dear one is the very image He is in the process of bringing us to by the work of His Holy Spirit. To be like the one Peter tells us: When he was reviled, did not revile in return; and when he suffered, did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
May we show our – His integrity to the World in our generation.
Think about it the next time you plan to respond to a Facebook post, a tweet, a news commentator’s remarks or some politician’s or pundit’s unfiltered utterances. Show your heart really does entrust your wellbeing to the one who “judges justly.”
Befuddle the World – the way Jesus did.
Integrity stymies the world.
God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.