The Integrity of True Faith
Woven through the last chapter of Hebrews 13 is the story of Joseph.
Which is interesting because verse 1 – “Let brotherly love continue” – is certainly not what Joseph experienced early on in life from his brothers. But despite what they did to him, by selling him into slavery, it didn’t stop him showing brotherly love to them when they came down to Egypt.
Showing brotherly love in the face of adversity and opposition is one of the greatest ways living by faith manifests itself. Joseph is a type of Christ in many ways and this is one of the most important aspects of it. Just like Joseph, Jesus was on the receiving end of maltreatment by his brethren. But faith says God’s way is the right way no matter what we experience. Jesus showed brotherly love right up until his death on the cross, saying “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” It’s retaining that integrity of character and the way we treat one another which shows that we have true faith.
The story of Joseph continues in verse 3 – “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Joseph experienced being in prison. His faith and integrity remained even under the direst of circumstances. Also, in the next verse – “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”. We think here of Potiphah’s wife and what she tried to get Joseph to do. Again, Joseph’s faith stood the test and his integrity didn’t waver.
It’s during times of pressure and stress that our characters are revealed.Verses 5 and 6 remind us of what God has promised to all of us who have the faith and integrity of character of Joseph. God “has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Faith, true faith from a heart of integrity, understands the truthfulness of this statement. It’s about having faith in the faithfulness of God. Cruel men did a lot of things to him but Joseph knew that God was with him the whole time. That’s living by faith.
It’s during times of pressure and stress that our characters are revealed. It would have been easy for the Hebrews to hide behind their rituals, doing the things the Law commanded in worship to God and convincing themselves that they were righteous. That’s easy religion. It’s when we are treated badly, find ourselves in a corner, or in compromising situations, that we find out whether we have the integrity God is looking for in His children, whether our faith is genuine.
Can we say, along with the author of the epistle, “for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” (v18)? Is our faith sincere? Or do we just go through the motions of our religion in a ritualistic way. That’s the bottom-line exhortation of the book of Hebrews. Do we act honorably in all things, even in things outside of our normal religious routine on Sunday mornings? Is our faith real?
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