Integrity carries the meaning of quality, of being in complete unity, undivided in loyalty, and unquestioned in character. It represents a moral soundness, basic honesty, absolute innocence, unqualified incorruptibility, unmistakable sincerity, and loyalty to principle in character and conduct. In the Scriptures integrity is synonymous with righteousness and uprightness.
When the Lord informed King Abimelech that Sarah, whom he had taken as his wife, was the wife rather than the sister of Abraham, the king answered, "In the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this." Then "God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her" (Gen. 20:5, 6). He was a man of integrity and his was the sin of ignorance and God freely forgave him. The Lord promised Solomon that if he walked "in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart," as did his father David, that his throne and kingdom would be established forever.
Let us notice a few of the scriptures that emphasize the value of integrity in the Christian character. "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity." "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee." "Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity." "And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face forever" (Ps. 7:8; 25:21; 26:1; 41:12). "The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them." "The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him" (Prov. 11:3; 20:7).
Perhaps no one in human history was ever more severely tested than was the patriarch Job. Here is the Lord's appraisal of his character: "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil." What would a person give to merit such a divinely inspired compliment? Later the Lord asked Satan if he was acquainted with Job, of whom he said, "There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause." Job did not waver even when his wife said to him, "Dost thou still maintain thine integrity? curse God, and die." His statement, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him," showed an integrity of a rare quality. Even though the Lord permitted Satan to persecute Job, which naturally raised questions in his mind as to the source and purpose, the record is that "Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly," as do many persons while passing through trials they cannot understand. Such leaders of steadfastness were never more greatly needed than in these days of instability and unfaithfulness. (See Job 1:1; 2:3, 9; 13:15; 1:22.)
God's Choice of Leaders
As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan, Jethro, under divine direction, counseled Moses to select leaders to assist him in his administrative work. He said: "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens" (Ex. 18:21). Here are three of the most important qualifications for our church leadership. "Able men"—those with training, skill, and efficiency, "such as fear God"—the spiritual-minded and consecrated, and "men of truth"—the honest and sincere. The church today needs leaders with such characteristics.
The same type of men were chosen by the apostles to administer the business affairs of the church. "Wherefore, brethren," they said, "look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:3, 4). Among those chosen were Philip and Stephen, who were used mightily by the Lord in the proclamation of the gospel, one becoming the first missionary and the other the first martyr.
Note the following striking descriptions of men of integrity:
Men must have moral backbone, and integrity which cannot be flattered, bribed, or terrified.—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 297.
Now is the time for God's people to show themselves true to principle. When the religion of Christ is most held in contempt, when His law is most despised, then should our zeal be the warmest and our courage and firmness the most unflinching. To stand in defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few—this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason.—Ibid., p. 136.
The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.—Education, p. 57.
Men of Principle
Joseph is described as a man with such a character, and an example to our modern youth:
Young men who have firm principles will eschew pleasure, defy pain, and brave even the lions' den and the heated fiery furnace rather than be found untrue to God. Mark the character of Joseph. Virtue is severely tested, but its triumph was complete. At every point the noble youth endured the test. The same lofty, unbending principle appeared at every trial. The Lord was with him and His word was law.
Such firmness and untarnished principle shines brightest in contrast with the feebleness and inefficiency of the youth of this age. With but few exceptions, they are vacillating, varying with every change of circumstance and surroundings, one thing today and another tomorrow.—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 43.
Daniel and his companions are here referred to as men with such characters. We can be sure that such persons will always be on the right side of any issue involving principle and standards of conduct. Mistakes will be of the head and not the heart. Their motives cannot be questioned and their word is dependable and their loyalty certain. Caleb and Joshua were men of this stamp. They were individuals of whom Moses could depend in every crisis. And this is the kind of people needed for leadership in the Advent Movement, which is journeying from modern spiritual Egypt and Babylon to the heavenly Canaan. Yes, Calebs and Joshuas are needed today, and they are among us though not always recognized.
Said the messenger of the Lord, "Only a few faithful Calebs will come to the front and display unwavering principle. These are salt that retains the savor." "What we need now is Calebs, men who are faithful and true." "Caleb was faithful and steadfast. He was not boastful, he made no parade of his merits and good deeds; but his influence was always on the side of right."—Ibid., pp. 130, 134, 303.
Joshua was now the acknowledged leader of Israel. . . . Courageous, resolute, and persevering, prompt, incorruptible, unmindful of selfish interests in his care for those committed to his charge, and, above all, inspired by a living faith in God,—such was the character of the man divinely chosen. . . . During the sojourn in the wilderness he had acted as prime minister to Moses, and by his quiet, unpretending fidelity, his steadfastness when others wavered, his firmness to maintain the truth in the midst of danger, he had given evidence of his fitness to succeed Moses, even before he was called to the position by the voice of God.—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 481, 482.
Integrity Brings Unity
Integrity is the basis of confidence and the secret of unity, the unity that brought the early rain and will bring the latter rain of spiritual power. Only those who spent the ten days in the upper room became "of one accord." As they drew near to Christ, the great Magnet, they were at the same time drawn together. There was no unity among them when they came together. They were quarreling and bickering as to who was the greatest, and were too jealous to perform the act of foot washing. But what a change was wrought by the ten days with their Master. Confidence in each other was completely restored, resulting in perfect unity. Of course, there could be no basis for unity with Judas or the scribes and Pharisees. Unity is not built on mere sentiment or emotion. It depends on honesty, integrity, and sincerity. We cannot be in unity with those we cannot respect or in whom we have no confidence. We can easily overlook the faults and mistakes of those we know to be honest and sincere.
This does not mean that there cannot be honest differences of opinion among genuine Christians. Unity does not destroy individuality. The Lord never made two trees, flowers, blades of grass, stars, or snowflakes alike. Each has an individuality of its own, and the same is true of all creatures in the animal kingdom, including mankind. It is unity in diversity that makes life interesting. It is indeed pathetic when a person gets a burden to make others exactly like himself in all habits and practices, for one of a kind is all the Creator intended. A recognition of this fact will accomplish much in the relations between the pastor and his members. Peter and Paul and Paul and Barnabas had honest differences of opinion, but it did not affect their love and unity.
Christ, in addressing each of His epistles to the seven churches of Asia said, to "the angel of the church," meaning the elder or pastor. The word angel means messenger or minister. Angels are spoken of as ministers and ministering spirits. The inference is that ministers should have angelic natures, characters, and dispositions. They should be angels in devotion to duty, in unselfishness, sincerity, ability, skill, wisdom, tact, loyalty, and integrity, and can therefore be entrusted with responsibilities. To say to an individual, "You are an angel," is considered a great compliment, and that is the way Christ designates His ministering servants. May we live to merit such a compliment.
A theological professor used to say to his ministerial students, "Now remember that you are an angel. Carry yourself like an„emissary of the Most High. Be a first-rate angel." Let us all endeavor to live up to the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus" and be men of integrity.