Integrity. This is a term that we often hear connected with ‘character’,’ business dealings’, and ‘information’. We assume it means honesty, but Webster expands this meaning to include: sincerity, completeness, wholeness; a quality associated with a file (information) that is complete and uncorrupted; goodness, principle, purity, rectitude, soundness, uprightness, and virtue. And, thus, the word ‘integrity’ takes on a great depth of meaning with which we, as Christians and BCBP members, should reflect on.
Author Scott Morton, in his article on Integrity (Discipleship Journal, Issue 104, 1998), poses eight questions for people who are involved with and ministering to, or leading other people. People who teach catechism, Christian brothers and sisters who disciple or mentor others, lead small groups, are parents to family and extended family. In our BCBP community this would mean every one of us since one of our responsibilities as BCBP members is to reach out to others, to lead by example in bringing others closer to Christ … through the BCBP breakfasts, personal evangelism, action group meetings, governance meetings, etc.
Morton bases his questions on his reflections on Jesus’ scorching expose of the hypocritical Pharisees in Matthew 23. He believes that whatever our level of ministry responsibility, our integrity is too important to go unexamined and invites us to rate ourselves against Jesus’ guideposts for integrity.
Issue 1: Does my behavior match my teaching? (Matt 23:2-3)
In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were recognized as teachers, occupying special seats in the synagogues. But Jesus points out their basic flaw – their actions did not match their words. Albert Schweitzer, legendary missionary doctor to Africa, said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others … it is the only thing.” Gandhi echoed the same refrain when he remarked, “Jesus Christ is a good man, but I can’t say the same for Christians.”
Are we subject to the same accusation? For example: I exhort others to have a daily quiet time, 15 minutes prayer and 15 minutes scripture reading/reflection, but do I? I challenge others to live out their faith, but do I live out my faith? I encourage others to reach out to evangelize others, bring others to the breakfasts, but how many 1st timers have I brought to the breakfast in the last three months?
To lead with integrity means to practice what we preach. To walk our talk, as Fr. Herb puts it. It is a sad reflection on our personal integrity when someone remarks, “I like what he teaches, but I don’t respect him as a person.”
Issue 2: Do I lay heavy loads on my followers? (Matt 23:4)
Morton recounts one time when he was giving a weekend of talks; he was issuing stiff challenges to return to God, to listen to Him, to obey Him. A young woman approached him and in frustration she asked, “Why is it that every talk is a challenge? I need encouragement in my daily walk with God, not stiff challenges!” He realized then that you can over challenge people and, in doing so, actually, either directly or indirectly, turn them away from God. That it’s easier to challenge than to genuinely encourage.
Jesus doesn’t say it’s never right to challenge those you lead. But he pointed out that the Pharisees, when they threw out a challenge, did nothing to help their pupils carry the load. They just told them what to do, but not how or why they should do it. They failed to encourage them along the way.
If we teach about the importance of having a quiet prayer time with the Lord, do we help him/her get started … through practice sessions, by sharing practical devotional guides, by our example?
Issue 3: Am I trying to impress people? (Matt 23:5, also vv 6-12)
To announce their holiness, the Pharisees had gotten into the habit of lengthening the tassels on their clothing and enlarging the small leather boxes worn on the arm or forehead containing Old Testament texts (these were called phylacteries). They did this so that people would notice and comment on how holy they were.
We all long to be noticed by others. We want to complimented on our teachings, on our service, on the intenseness of our prayer time and worship during assemblies. If the desired to impress others is our weakness, we might say, “During my 2-hour prayer time, the Lord revealed to me …. “ The content of what the Lord revealed may be awesome and profound, but it would seem that the heart’s motive is to show off, to impress our listeners.
If we feel neglected because others do not recognize and/or comment on our sacrificial service in community and to others, then this service was not done out of love but to gain acceptance. We become leaders of integrity when we learn to serve without concern for recognition, when we serve because of the joy of serving the Lord, not for the pleasure of pleasing ourselves and other people.
Issue 4: Do I delight when my pupils surpass me? (Matt 23:13)
In this issue, Morton cautions us to not be like the Pharisees in holding people back from spiritual growth because they were progressing faster than themselves. He says that if we want others to only grow to our own level, we are in big trouble. Our goal should be to launch them to greater heights. We must not dominate the people we lead; rather, we should help them to experience joy.
Issue 5: Am I molding people in my image or Christ’s? (Matt 23:15)
Yes, we must be examples to others in community, in our action groups, but not to the extent of having them remember us, rather than Christ in us. In the BCBP we can see this happening during the breakfast testimonies. How many times, when we are asked who the sharer was and what was the Lord’s message for us, we remember who the sharer was, but need to think hard to remember (and sometimes we can’t remember) what the message of the Lord was.
As leaders of integrity we must always direct our members toward making Jesus Christ their model. To do this, of course, is to let them see Christ in us, and so desire to have Christ in their own lives, too.
Issue 6: Am I majoring on the majors? (Matt 23:23)
Morton gives several relevant examples of our Pharisaic behavior on this issue, urging us to look into our hearts and ask “Am I meticulous in the minor, measurable things but neglectful of the important moral issues that are not so measurable? For example: You can develop masterful ppt presentations for your teaching talks – but your kids avoid you and your temper when you are at home. You never miss a quiet time – but you underpay your employees, and/or neglect their working conditions.
To lead with integrity means to place the highest value on issues of character and the heart, on relationships and good example, not on outward conformity and performance.
Issue 7: Am I keeping up appearances to cover indulgence? (Matt 23:25; 26-28)
The word ‘indulgence’ in Greek means “want of self-restraint.” The essence of integrity is to be on the inside what we appear to be on the outside. What are the areas of secret – or not so secret – indulgences in your life? Perhaps indulging in titillating or rumor-mongering TV shows just to see what’s on? Maybe drifting to the mall for “shopping therapy”? Or spending the evening at the neighborhood sleazy bar when you proclaimed to all to be working overtime at the office?
Secret indulgences undermine integrity; once they become habits, then we are in trouble of straying off the path God wants us to walk on.
Issue 8: Do I consider myself superior to others? (Matt 23:30; also vv 31-36)
The Pharisees had a bad case of spiritual pride … and we are not immune from it either! When we see poor leadership (or a leader who doesn’t do things the way we think they should be done), we comment, “I would never do that!” That’s spiritual pride, claims Morton. We are capable to any mistake others make. To say we are not is to misunderstand our own sinfulness and tendency to step off the narrow path when nobody is looking. This only telegraphs our feelings of superiority.
A sense of superiority causes us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Do you observe and watch others to the tasks, or do you join them and work side by side with them, getting your hands dirty with them?
Integrity in leadership is inseparable from humility in leadership.
We are accountable to Christ
Ultimately, our integrity in our personal ministry, in our service, in our livelihood, in community, says Morton, comes from daily personal honesty with Jesus. We must not depend on someone else to keep us ethical and morally honest. He believes that in order to become a leader of integrity in the fullest sense of the word, we must make ourselves accountable to Jesus Christ, our mentor and example. He advises us to do this by regularly praying through Jesus’ 8-point checklist to the Pharisees. As we do this, we will become leaders of integrity, and people will count it a privilege to serve with us, and follow us.
–Nancy R. Catan