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…Toward Holiness and Integrity, pt 4 of 6

 This is part 4 of an essay entitled: Sailing Toward Holiness and Integrity: (CLICK FOR PART 1, 2, 3)

        Holiness comes from our alignment with God.  Especially in our current time, we may be too busy to stop and reflect.  What good can result from this busyness?  Not much good.  When we don’t pause, our convictions do not take root.  They are like seed scattered on rocky soil that takes root only enough to get scorched by the sun (Matthew 13:5-7).  Therefore, our actions are based on constant input we receive from the world around us—ever changing and rarely good.  Alignment with God requires reflection, devotion, study, and prayer.  In fact, “losing the sincere sense of spiritual disciplines,” is a sign that one is about to “perpetrate boundary violations (Rediger 38).”  Similarly, St. Ephraim the Syrian, is known to have said “[v]irtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance, suppresses anger, restrains pride and envy, draws down the Holy Spirit in to the soul and raises man to heaven (Logue).”  Such alignment with God gives us the strength to hear Him and to fight anything that may hinder us on our way to holiness and integrity.  The root of the word virtue “comes from the Latin virtus, which literally meant something like power (Gill 30).”  This is the same root for the word “virility,” which still carries a meaning of value and potency (Gill 30).  Alignment with God is possible only with God, through His goodness and impartation of virtue—the power to be good. 


…Toward Holiness and Integrity, pt 3 of 6

This is part 3 of an essay entitled: Sailing Toward Holiness and Integrity: (CLICK FOR PART 1, 2)

We must submit to God. Over time our communities develop value systems that define what is honorable, what is virtuous (that is to say, what is powerful and what is valuable in fulfilling a purpose). These values or virtues are based on what is necessary for corporate survival. These values or virtues are enforced by acts of shame. For example, the samurai culture of Japan valued courage and honor so much that it required suicide of a warrior that did not die in battle. The characteristics of courage and honor were developed out of the need to win battles or get annihilated. Our community (our global community, really) comes inherent with a value system or virtues. Christ, however, calls us to a different standard as evidenced in the “you have heard it said” discourses of the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery (Matthew 5:27).” Jesus revolutionizes what is virtuous in a culture. Christ atoning death allows for right relationship with God in order that we might be one with the source of goodness. In that light, it only seems right to follow Christ’s redirection in Matthew 5. We must let go of the value systems of the community in order to transform the community. We cannot cling, for example, to hard work and success, as honoring principles. We must submit to God’s goodness.

…Toward Holiness and Integrity, pt. 1

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.