Core Value Four: Integrity
In their ground-breaking book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters, authors Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman make a bold statement that in many circles Christianity has a huge image problem. They summed up their three years of research among the unchurched by saying, “Christians are supposed to represent Christ to the world, but according to the latest report card, something has gone terribly wrong. Using descriptions like ‘hypocritical’ Americans share an impression of Christians that’s nothing short of…unChristian.”
Ouch! Well that kind of hurts!
Before we get too bent out of shape with these statements and start quoting all our favorite bumper stickers like, “Christians are not perfect…just forgiven” and “Only God can judge me” or “Please don’t judge Jesus by what you see in me,” let’s stop for a moment and think about what they are really trying to say here because I think its mission critical. BTW, these bumper stickers (and several thousand more just like them) really do exist!
So, what are Kinnaman and Lyons saying? Are they saying that as Christians we need to live perfect lives in order to have credibility with the world? Nope, I don’t think that’s the right answer. Are they saying that it’s more important to hide our issues and keep up the right image for those around us and then they’ll believe our message? Nope, I don’t think that’s the right direction either. Maybe the answer is to not judge anybody for anything – a judgment free world? As nice as it sounds, I don’t think that is what they are getting at either. What I do think they are saying is that as followers of Jesus it is really important for us to have integrity and for our actions to match up with our beliefs. Whether we like it or not the world is watching and we are either representing Jesus well or we are representing him poorly.
I can’t stress this point enough living in a world where trust in people and institutions, especially the church, is at an all-time low. Scandals seem to be a daily occurrence whether it’s Ashley Madison, Bill Cosby, Brian Williams, FIFA or Deflategate. Everywhere you look there’s personal, political, corporate, athletic, celebrity, and church scandal. This leads us to one of the main points of the book – non-Christians don’t see any real difference between us and the rest of the world and its causing many to leave the church or not engage with the church at all. Here are some of their most consistent comments:
1. There is no difference in conduct between Christians and non-Christians.
2. Christians have an unfortunate air of moral superiority.
3. Like our own choices and priorities, we believe that everyone (Christians included) says and does whatever is necessary to get ahead.
4. Christians say one thing but live something entirely different.
5. Christians employ the same tactics as everyone else to preserve an appearance of strength.
Let me end this blog by simply saying that God has always been concerned for how he’s represented in and to the world, and therefore, we should be too. He cares deeply about people and “does not wish that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Nowhere is this call to integrity more evident than Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
In our next post we are going to look deeper at what integrity is and why it is so important for us personally and for Renovate Church Austin. Have a great week!
Dave and April