Summary: Why is integrity important?

How important is integrity?

* Is integrity just a quaint relic of an earlier time, a simpler time when people could be trusted and a man’s word was his bond?

* Is integrity just for the naïve, the innocent, those who don’t understand how the real world works? Or is it perhaps just for the unusually holy - Mother Teresa, for instance.

* Is integrity a situational virtue - something that you live by when it benefits you, but something that you can abandon when it gets in the way of winning?

At WestShore Community Church, we consider integrity to very important, vitally important. So important that we’ve made it one of our six core values, values that identify what kind of a church we are going to be. We believe in the importance of integrity for all times, for all people, and for every situation.

In a moment, we’re going to look at why this virtue is so important to us, but before we do that, let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about. What is integrity, anyway? It’s a little difficult to define, it’s kind of a "you know it when you see it" thing, but here are some ways of describing it:

"What you do when no one’s watching"

"On October 28, 1987, the rear door of a Metropolitan Armored Car swung open on Interstate 71 in Columbus, Ohio. Bags of cash were dumped on the highway. `It looked like snow, it was so thick,’ said officer Bob Kinney, who was called to the intersection of Interstates 70 and 71 after motorists and pedestrians jammed traffic when they stopped to scoop up the $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. Company officials refused to say how much money was lost but sources indicated it was more than $1 million."

What would you have done?

Or what about cheating on taxes? Chances of being audited are about .3% in Cleveland - lowest in the country (Cato Journal, Fall 1999).

Other definitions of integrity:

* Doing the right thing when it is disadvantageous or costly, especially when it would be easy to do the opposite.

* Acting out of principle, rather than expediency

* Keeping your word, keeping your promises

* Practicing what you preach - consistency between words and actions. [Why has Billy Graham been on Gallup Poll’s List of Most Admired Men more than any other in last 50 years? Because he pratices what he preaches.]

What’s the opposite of integrity? Lying, deception, hypocrisy, unfaithfulness.

A commitment to integrity sets us apart as children of God

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" -- Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

People today are cynical, skeptical and suspicious of institutions. [Government, Law Enforcement, Judicial system, Business, Media, Science, Medical profession (HMO’s), Church]. Unfortunately, this skepticism is earned. Even a few well-publicized bad apples can ruin the reputation of a whole class of people.

* For example, take the case of police corruption in the Rampart division of the LAPD. Allegations of unjustified shootings, beatings, evidence planting, false arrests and perjury. One officer admitted that he and his former partners framed 99 people over three years. More than two dozen officers have been relieved of duty, suspended without pay, fired or have quit in connection with the scandal. More than 40 court cases have been overturned. Hundreds of millions of dollars expected to be paid to settle lawsuits

* "60 Minutes" has created a television franchise out of scandal, and is not likely to run out of material for stories anytime soon.

* Why are people so upset with the Census Long Form, which asks 53 questions, including whether you have a flush toilet? Because they don’t trust the government. When people hear, "we’re from the government, and we’re here to help" they instinctively reach back to make sure they still have their wallet. Is it any wonder that they have a similar reaction when they hear, "we’re from the church, and we’re here to help"?

The bad news is that we will not be taken at face value. Our assurances that we only have people’s best in mind will not be accepted. We won’t get the benefit of the doubt. We will have to prove ourselves. The good news is that when we demonstrate that we are on the up-and-up, when people see that our actions match our words, when they look closely at how we operate and find that we consistently act in integrity, then we will stand out like a sore thumb. They will see that we are different. And that will give us an opportunity to tell them why we are different.

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