Thanks for joining me again for our Philippians on Friday devotion. In this verse in chapter two, Paul writes about something that is so needful in our society: Integrity!
12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
Integrity: noun – in·teg·ri·ty \in-ˈte-grə-tē\: firm adherence to a code of moral values; possession of firm principles.
When I think of integrity, I think of a person who is the same regardless of their circumstances or whom they are around. Their morals are constant – they don’t shift depending on their environment.
Paul was commending the Philippians for their integrity. He acknowledged that their character was the same whether he was with them or not. They were obedient to the Word of God and the instruction of Paul whether he was watching them or was far away in a Roman prison cell.
Many people are not like that. They are obedient when being watched but act quite differently when no one is looking. A person of integrity follows a pre-determined set of values regardless of who is watching.
I distinctly remember a situation a number of years ago in which a fellow Christian encouraged me to do something that would not have been pleasing to God. I’ll never forget his words, “No one will ever find out!” Looking back, I’m glad I told him that whether or not anyone would find out had no bearing on my actions.
I’ve sure made my share of mistakes and certainly have room to grow in integrity, but I always try to do the right things regardless of who is watching or if my actions will ever be found out. Let us all strive for integrity. Let us live holy lives regardless of who is looking. Let us do our best to do what’s right in all situations.
It is a common misconception that morality can be compartmentalized. Some think that what you do in your private life is nobody’s business and shouldn’t have any bearing on your public life. That notion goes against the essence of integrity.
Have those whose behavior changes depending on who is watching forgotten that God is always watching? Nothing is hidden from Him. Others may not see what we do in private, but God sees.
In public or in private, while alone or in the company of others, at home or on vacation, whether our actions will be found out or not – let us firmly adhere to a lifestyle pleasing to God.
A characteristic of spiritual maturity is doing the right things even when our spiritual leaders aren’t holding our hands! The pastor can’t always be with us. Our parents will not always nudge us in the right direction. Part of growing up in the faith is learning to do the right things whether or not some authority figure is looking over our shoulder.
It seems like Paul is sensing that he may never again see the Philippians. He realizes how important it is for the Philippians to live a godly lifestyle, even if he is to never be with them again. They had to take personal ownership of the morals Paul had taught them. They had to develop their own beliefs and convictions that they would embrace even without Paul’s oversight.
Have those whose behavior changes depending on who is watching forgotten that God is always watching?
Likewise, we each need our own morals – not just mom and dad’s. We need our own convictions and boundaries – not just the church’s. I’ve heard people respond to the question, “Why do you do such and such?” with “Well, it’s what my church believes.” While it may be admirable and necessary to embrace the teachings of our church, we need to take ownership of those teachings. They need to be what I believe! Integrity is weakened when our beliefs and morals are those of our parents, church, or spiritual leaders and not also our own!
Integrity is a quality in short supply in our world. Situational ethics and relativism work against a person holding fast to an absolute set of morals or beliefs. May our lives of integrity and character shine brightly in this dark world.