Part one of an essay entitled: Sailing Toward Holiness and Integrity
All day long, we covered it in strips of fiberglass and coated it with resin. Each sheet of fiberglass lay perpendicular to the one before it—the mesh was becoming more impenetrable. We were doing all of this because there was a hole in the hull of the boat. We hoped that our ceremony of fiberglass and resin would strengthen the integrity of the boat—not just so that we wouldn’t sink, but so that we could navigate more turbulent waters and venture further into the sea. How well do our characters navigate through the current of God’s calling, especially in context of our community?
We are all called and there is one who calls us. God calls us all to salvation through Jesus Christ. We experience His general call to discipleship—to grow through sanctifying grace. We also experience the specific call to mission and vocation. To hear this call, especially through our personal values, and to respond to it is to invest ourselves in the Lord (Harper). What drives us to experience sanctification? What sustains us through this journey? The integrity of our character—the hull of our boat—sustains our journey. Our integrity is strengthened through a life of personal and social holiness—a life of goodness.
Goodness is a powerful description. The word “good” is a “basic term of positive evaluation (Gill 62).” Therefore, goodness requires a standard and, similar to calling, requires an evaluator. Ultimate goodness is a standard (and a positive evaluation) set by God through his very nature, and, as we will see later, achieved through His power. David Gill, in his book Becoming Good, laments that “the vocabulary of goodness tends to merge with the language of success and measurable effectiveness (65).” This kind of “good” character stops short of integrity. Character that strives for effectiveness or success assumes culture as a standard and evaluator. Ultimately, that ship will be unable to navigate through greater waters. So we strive to be good in order that we might be congruent with our creator, that we might be strengthened, and to express our creator in community with others.
God, the very nature of Goodness, created us. We were created to be good. If we don’t strive for the righteousness through which we were created, we are denying our own very nature in goodness: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (NIV Genesis 1:27).” However, to strive for righteousness is to live fully in communion with our creator and this creates a humble strength within us (Harper). With our foundation rooted deep in our creator, we are able to navigate through our calling while being in our culture; we can do this without being knocked down by circumstance or by being indiscreet. With this deep root, we have a strong point of reference. We will always be rooted in goodness.
This congruence, this root, allows our creator to express himself through us when we are in community. Congruence is evident to others. Our goodness solicits trust—not just in us, but in Him whom we claim to be rooted. At the same time, to claim to be rooted in goodness and to express the contrary is to call God “bad.” In fact, most of our culture’s wounds come from unexpected deviations from an expected character (Harper). Therefore, it can be asserted that many of the wounds in which we attribute to God can be traced back to a deviation in the character of one who represented Him by claiming to be congruent with Him. This is an important concept for those of us who aspire to ministry. The development and maintenance of integrity, strength in goodness, will sustain us while those who do not make integrity a priority may forget God, move towards burnout and indiscretion, and, therefore, misrepresent the goodness of God in their communities.