The Merriam-Webster dictionary has three definitions of integrity: "1. firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, 2. an unimpaired condition, and 3. the quality or state of being complete and undivided." This comment primarily focuses on the third definition.
John 8:32 contains the famous statement "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Integrity is liberating. It allows us to be free from self-deception. It allows us to be authentic in our human relationships. Perhaps most importantly, integrity allows us to maintain a relationship with our God.
The Old Testament Book of Job involves an honorable person who endures with integrity every conceivable trouble. In Job chapter 2:9-10 Job is challenged by his wife. "His wife said to him, "Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!" He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said." To curse God would rupture Job's relationship with God.
While integrity preserves psychological integration and authentic relationships, maintaining integrity is never simple or easy. A mixture of pride and shame may make it difficult to confess to inauthenticity and impede a return to integrity. This is unfortunate because inauthentic individuals are untrustworthy and trust is foundational to all social interactions. Integrity is so essential to society that we should welcome those who return to integrity.
Jesus welcomed individuals who returned to integrity. In the case of the woman caught in adultery, all of her accusers left. The suggestion is that they were unwilling to acknowledge their sins and lack of integrity. Jesus had the following conversation with the woman in John 8: 10-11: "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said."Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
In Luke 19: 8-10 Jesus interacted with a tax collector: "Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
Noteworthy is that the return to integrity in both situations is not without lifestyle changes and restitution to victims. Nevertheless the return to integrity restores one to relationships without enduring stigma. Unfortunately, our society does not always follow this example.
Individuals who return to integrity may find themselves forever stigmatized, set apart, and not welcomed back into relationship and community. Sometimes the harshest critics are themselves lacking integrity. Perhaps this is a projection of their personal guilt. Perhaps they seek to justify their lack of confession. Perhaps they need to feel superior to cope with their lack of self worth. For whatever reason, like the elder brother in the Gospel of Luke parable of the lost son, they refuse to welcome the return and are angry with those who do welcome the return to integrity.
Let us resolve to welcome those who return to integrity. Not only is this good for the individual, it is also good for society to encourage authentic and trustworthy interactions. Furthermore, it may prove to be good for us. We may ourselves need to be welcomed someday when we return to integrity.