Living and working with Integrity?
Part 3 of a workwise mini-series on integrity.
In the last WorkWise article we looked at integrity from a biblical perspective. We saw that integrity is an absolute standard from God, and defined in legal terms, integrity is righteousness—the opposite of sin (see the previous WorkWise on integrity). Still, the Law is the floor, the baseline for upright living. When I read Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount I feel hopeless and helpless. It seems that righteousness is doing what is good for everyone in every circumstance at the expense of MY rights. “Who can live like this?” asks my sinful self. We experience sin’s temptations daily, and once we indulge ourselves in going the wrong way even slightly, sin can quickly take over. For example, stealing something small dulls our conscience and makes us accustomed to the act. As a Romanian folk saying puts it, “Today an egg, an ox tomorrow.” Paul describes this condition in Romans 7:19-20: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing.”
It’s important to understand that sin began at a deeper level than the act of disobedience. It started when Satan depersonalised YHWH Elohim, the Lord God, by addressing him as Elohim, just God. The serpent planted in the first humans’ minds the seed of doubt in God's character and his goodness towards them (Genesis 2-3). This subtle switch led Adam and Eve to distrust God and triggered a strong desire for moral autonomy that ultimately led to disobedience. Both righteousness and sin are relational - righteousness builds up trust and relationships, while sin destroys relationships between man and God; man and man; man and nature. The bad news is that we can’t deliver ourselves from our unrighteous, sinful and separated-from-God condition.
The good news is we are not hopeless nor helpless. God is willing to make us whole integrated human beings, and he can deliver us. The Gospel is not merely a ticket to heaven and deliverance from hell; those are real, but the Gospel is also God’s great news that there is hope for ultimate human goodness. Jesus Christ showed us righteous living (always doing that which is best for any ‘other’ in any circumstance) and more than that, he made himself the way to it. Through Christ’s atonement, God imputes (places) his son’s righteousness on us. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “‘[Jesus] himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness”. God’s grace is that we have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10) and the mercy’s fruit in our lives is that we die for sin and live for righteousness.
Through the Holy Spirit, God helps us to live righteously. The Holy Spirit guides, inspires, and transforms us with God’s truth (John 14:26). Through His indwelling, God imparts Christ’s righteousness in us, so that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is possible in our character - love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Imparted righteousness leads to enacted righteousness, as God’s Spirit empowers us to live out the righteousness we receive from God, by his grace, through faith in Christ. Oswald Chambers says, “Holiness (righteousness) is not simply what God gives me, but what God has given me that is being exhibited in my life.” In this way enacted righteousness is every bit a consequence of God’s grace as is his act of removing my sin and covering me with Jesus’ righteousness.
“Be holy as I am holy!” is not a demand from the Lord, but the biggest offer God has made to anyone. God is willing to finish what he has started in you and me, provided we are willing to cooperate. - explains David Pawson.
In the verses quoted from 1 Peter, Peter is addressing slaves, encouraging them on how to live in the presence of non-believing bosses in a way that reflects the grace of God to those around them. Because we so quickly lose sight of it, it is good to ask the Spirit once again to show you how you “die to sin and live to righteousness in” the place where you work.