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Integrity

This article looks at integrity from God's perspective, examines what it means and illuminates the importance of it in our discipleship.
By NATHAN BADGER
Read Time: 10 minutes

His Children are Blessed

I vividly recall the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. January 28, 1986, was a freezing day in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Our grade-seven class crowded around a TV set in our school library to witness Christa McAuliffe, a teacher-astronaut, “go where no schoolteacher had ever gone before.”

We cheered as the rockets roared to life and Challenger hurtled towards space. But, 73 seconds into the launch, the unthinkable happened: a massive explosion. We were heartbroken and shocked. Challenger had disintegrated. The lives of all seven astronauts were gone in an instant. An investigation was ordered, and in the months that followed, a single word frequently head-lined the press as the reason the mission failed so tragically: integrity.

Firstly, Roger Boisjoly,1 a Shuttle rocket engineer, had warned that the O-ring seals in the solid rocket boosters would lose their integrity in cold weather. They were faulty and could not be trusted to withstand the launch. Coupled with hot rocket gases, they would crack, fail and result in a catastrophic explosion.1,2

And secondly, Roger demonstrated professional integrity. He appealed for months to have the faulty rocket seals fixed; he was honest and did everything he could to avert a disaster. Even on the morning of the launch, Roger raised repeated and strenuous warnings that NASA should delay. It was the coldest day they had ever launched! But there was too much money, media, public pressure and “saving face” at stake. Sadly, Roger’s integrity was of little value, and NASA dismissed his warnings.1,2

Saving Lives

In the months before the launch, Roger stuck to his values and told the truth about the faulty rocket seals, despite peer pressure, intimidation and the possibility of losing his job and close friends. Even after the disaster, he showed integrity. He continued to spell out the facts, tell the truth and illuminate “cover-ups” that had been taking place for years, which ultimately led to the loss of seven lives.

He suffered significant ill-treatment and psychological strain for standing up for the right thing. Eventually, Roger was even forced to resign from his job because he was ostracized by colleagues and labeled a “whistleblower.” All to save people’s lives by being truthful and not giving in to pressure or being dissuaded by slander.1,3

Thankfully, at the end of the investigation, and in subsequent years, Roger eventually came to be viewed in a different light. He was heralded as a “man of integrity.”4 His example prompted international changes in workplace whistleblower policies and the design standards of NASA and many engineering companies.1

What does God think about integrity?

Since the Challenger disaster, Roger’s integrity has saved many lives, despite the seven that were originally lost. I recently revisited the details of the Challenger disaster. It forced me to ask, “What is integrity?” And “What does God think about integrity?”

This month, we want to determine what this word means and illuminate the importance of integrity in our discipleship, all from God’s perspective. Next month, we will investigate several practical ingredients of integrity and discuss how they can positively impact our discipleship. We will find, as Roger Boisjoly did, that integrity eventually saves lives.

The Integrity of Job

There are many descriptions of integrity on the internet, but the best one is contained in God’s Word. The Book of Job contains a robust definition of integrity, alongside an inspiring demonstration of this word in action. Job was a man who was blessed with great prosperity and happiness; he also suffered devastating troubles and sadness.

Job was well-known by God for his integrity

He suffered debilitating illness and the loss of children, family, friends, assets and self-esteem. At the same time, he was slandered, maligned through gossip, humiliated, defamed and falsely accused. He was relentlessly judged by several of his “friends,” and undoubtedly others. I am sure Roger Boisjoly could relate.

Yet, in all these events, God upholds Job as a great man of integrity:

Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still, he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause. (Job 2:3 NKJV).

We learn that Job was well-known by God for his integrity. It was an integral part of every aspect of his life, both during his initial prosperity and his subsequent troubles. It governed his thoughts, his words, his actions and interactions, and for that reason, God commends him, even to his enemies.

God’s Definition of Integrity

Job 2:3 also contains a definition of integrity: the very example of Job. In this verse, God identifies five key ingredients in Job’s integrity that are worth marking in our Bibles:

1. Knowledge (of right and wrong)—God states that Job was “one who fears God.” This required that Job maintained an accurate understanding of who God was and how God wanted him to live. He understood God’s definition of right and wrong and its practical application in his life. We learn that a knowledge of God and his values are a fundamental ingredient of integrity. How can we develop integrity if we do not know the character and nature of God, or what He has stated is right and wrong from His Word?

2.Conviction (dedication, holdfast-ness)—God emphasizes that Job “holds fast” to his integrity, even when others attempt to “incite God against him,” and to “destroy him without cause.” Regardless of the circumstances, Job wholly and fully dedicated himself to act on the godly knowledge he had gleaned. We learn that integrity means a deep devotion and “hold-fast-ness” to God’s values. Nothing should move us from our convictions, whether ups or downs, though it may mean we incur loss, harm or humiliation.

3.Behavior (actions, words, thoughts)—God reveals the faultless behavior of Job. He was an “upright man” and one that “shuns evil” (“escheweth evil” KJV). According to Strong’s, to be “upright” means to be “straight, or even” and to shun evil means to “turn away or revolt from” people or circumstances that are perverse in God’s eyes. Job’s walk matched his talk and his inner thoughts. We learn that integrity is about personal actions, words and thoughts that are driven by God’s values. Furthermore, to entertain an environment that scorns these will only undermine our efforts to achieve holy conduct.

4.Consistency (wholeness, complete, all the time)—God describes Job as “blameless,” and a man of “integrity.” The thrust of these two words, which both originate from the root word tamam (Strong’s 8552), is “morally complete, full, or whole.” In other words, Job was not twothirds good and one-third bad. He was fully and completely a man of integrity. Today we would describe him as consistent. We learn that integrity means every day, in every way. This is not a trait that is part-time, or only “when we feel like it.”

5.Character (who we are, traits, qualities)—Lastly, God testifies that Job is “my servant” and that there is “none like him in the earth.” His traits and qualities identified him as unique, and he was widely known as a different kind of person. Throughout the Bible, we learn he was kind, generous, compassionate, just, patient (Jas 5:11) and righteous by faith (Ezek 14:14), among many other qualities. These admonitions also confirm that Job’s knowledge, conviction, behavior and consistency were inseparable parts of his character. And his character was a wonderful ingredient in his integrity. We learn that our character or distinctive traits are important to God. Not because others notice them, but because He wants us to match the very character of God himself (e.g., Exod 34:6-7).

Without sustained action, we will not achieve godly integrity.

Integrity may be a difficult word to wrap our heads around, but Job offers a helpful definition and demonstration for our discipleship. And through Job, God shows that integrity is not simply an academic exercise. All five ingredients require considerable effort, and possibly blood, sweat, and tears. Without sustained action, we will not achieve godly integrity.

A review of Job’s ingredients also allows us to ask some tough questions about ourselves. Have we made a concerted effort to develop a knowledge of God and his perspective on what is right and wrong? This requires that we regularly search for it through prayer and reading, rather than a cursory acknowledgment on Sunday morning or at CYC. It’s an effort that requires constant tending and growth.

Are we deeply convicted by this knowledge, and do we stand fast to this conviction though the sun may shine or a tornado rip through? Does our behavior match our conviction and knowledge so that we assert God’s values in an unmovable and consistent pattern? And is God’s character an inseparable part of our integrity? Also, did you notice how difficult integrity would be without all five ingredients? Each of them is interlinked. They support and lean on one another. If you remove one, integrity collapses like a Jenga tower.

For example, we can hold deep convictions, exhibit good behavior, act consistently, and maintain a character that appears impeccable. But if all these ingredients are founded on a distorted knowledge of God, or of right and wrong, then our integrity will also be distorted. To have integrity, we must undergird the other ingredients with the correct knowledge, and vice-versa.

Like Roger Boisjoly and Job, we will be tested by circumstances and people. Forming a break wall of integrity will help us, and others, to hold fast when we confront the waves and storms even if parts of our lives are washed away. Close friends or our brothers and sisters may even challenge us. God provides us with forty-two chapters that illustrate Job’s struggles to understand, develop and tenaciously hold on to his integrity. They are a guide and encouragement for our own lives.

More than once he is challenged to set his integrity adrift in the chaos (e.g., Job 2:9). Job’s friends go even as far as to deny his integrity and falsely state that he “was endlessly evil, makes false pledges, strips the naked of clothing, refuses water to the weary and bread to the hungry, sends widows away empty, and crushes the fatherless.” (Job 22:5-11 ESV).

These are staggering accusations and must have been crushing to Job, but he holds fast. When we experience Job’s pain, we need to remind ourselves, that in the end, it was Job’s integrity that helped save the very lives of his misguided friends (Job 42:7-9). As Roger Boisjoly also discovered, integrity eventually saves lives.

At a Venture

There is another intriguing verse that enhances and completes our definition of integrity. During the period of the kings, Ahab joins forces with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to fight against the king of Syria. During this battle, the record states that “a certain man drew a bow at a venture and smote the king of Israel [Ahab] between the joints of the harness.” (1 Kgs 22:34).

The phrase “at a venture” is the Hebrew word tome (Strong’s 8537). Surprisingly, it is the same Hebrew word used for Job’s “integrity” in Job 2:3 (Strong’s 8538 toommaw), albeit in the masculine form. Strong’s Concordance defines both words as meaning “complete, full, integrity, perfection, upright, morally innocent, and simplicity.”

Both words are normally translated as “integrity” throughout the OT. But in this instance, the different rendering helps us identify another aspect of integrity: the arrow was fired with innocence and simplicity. There was no ill-motivation or pre-meditation by the archer to specifically kill King Ahab. The ESV and several other versions expose this same meaning when they translate the phrase “at random” (e.g., ESV). Unfortunately for Ahab, God permitted the arrow to find him, and it killed him. Practically, this verse helps us to further understand godly integrity, and forms the sixth ingredient:

6.Innocence—Integrity demands a certain level of innocence and simplicity. It does not involve ill or manipulative motivations. It is pure and not devious. It means we are not constantly planning to see what we can get out of someone or how we can take control of a situation. It means we are not seeking to repay, be punitive or vindictive. Instead, we leave this for God to sort out (Rom 12:19).

This final ingredient is an incredible challenge. It is difficult to objectively evaluate our innocence or motivations, let alone someone else’s. Only God can intimately and accurately judge the heart (Prov 21:2 NKJV). And that is why only God can truly judge whether someone has integrity or not.

Do we seek simplicity and purity of intention?

But it is important to personally reflect on whether our behavior is innocent, in the sense of this verse. Do we have ulterior motives that cause us to try and manipulate things, and only serve to complicate our circumstances? Perhaps we lie, cajole or seek allies to support our cause? Maybe we intentionally fire arrows to achieve our end goal? Or do we seek simplicity and purity of intention?

It is helpful to remind ourselves that our lives are always subject to God’s plan and timelines, and we need only align ourselves with Him. In the end, God will judge the situations we encounter, as He did with Job and his friends.

The Integrity of the Upright

Integrity is a lofty mission. Each of the six ingredients we have explored is a significant task on its own. Job surely made mistakes, though God still considered him to be a model of integrity. We will also make mistakes and must not be discouraged by our missteps.

Several verses in Proverbs encourage us to keep working at them. Solomon uses the word integrity when he reminds us that “the integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” (Prov 11:3). Here, this wise king reveals that God deeply values integrity and wants us to develop it in our lives.

Fundamentally, integrity guides the lives of disciples to be “upright,” or “straight” (Strong’s). This is the same adjective used to describe Job (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3). Solomon also contrasts integrity with perversity. Integrity is completely the opposite of perversity, crookedness (ESV), or the “distorted and vicious” (Strong’s) behavior of transgressors.

Without integrity, it is impossible to be an “upright” disciple, and we will follow a twisted and harmful path that will eventually destroy us and others nearby. But, if we walk with integrity, it will guide us to become upright disciples.

Integrity is like a compass or a GPS which ensures we are on the right hiking trail and that we take the straightest route or the correct forks in the road. Solomon also shows in Proverbs that integrity will have a positive impact on those around us: “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” (Prov 20:7).

If we decide to integrate integrity with our daily decisions then our children, friends, spouse, colleagues, and others around us will be blessed by God through the outcomes of our integrity. And if we model integrity for others, they may even follow our example of godly integrity. In the end, as Roger Boisjoly, Job, and Solomon discovered, integrity saves lives.

Nathan Badger,
Cambridge Ecclesia, ON

 

1 Wikipedia. “Roger Boisjoly.” Accessed January 26, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_ Boisjoly
2 Berkes, Howard. “Remembering Roger Boisjoly: He Tried to Stop the Shuttle Challenger Launch.” February 6, 2012. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2012/02/06/146490064/rememberingroger-boisjoly-he-tried-to-stop-shuttle-challenger-launch.
3 Arnold, Denis. “Case 5. Roger Boisjoly and the Challenger Disaster: Disloyal Employee or Courageous Whistle-Blower?” Accessed January 26, 2022. https://philosophia.uncg.edu/media/ phi361-metivier/readings/Case-Challenger.pdf.
4 Rempel, William. “Engineer Who Opposed Launch Known for Integrity, Intensity.” February 26, 1986, Accessed January 26, 2022. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-02-26-mn-53- story.html.

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