This is the last in a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.
I will never forget the day I was called by an officer with the police department and accused of a crime. “Mr. Terry,” the officer on the phone said. “You have been accused of stealing gasoline at a local convenience store. We are giving you notice that you must pay the money or you will be charged with a crime.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I remember purchasing gas at the store on the date in question, but as best as I could remember I paid for it. After protesting for a while I realized that the officer was threatening, but that it was highly unlikely they were going to come arrest me for a theft of $10 of gas. In fact, since I lived outside of the city from where the crime supposedly occurred, the officer has no legal authority to arrest me. All she could do was harass me on the phone. I was, after all, innocent. There was no evidence I committed a crime, just a simple claim. So I made a decision.
I got into my truck, drove to the gas station and handed the attendant a $10 bill. I said to the attendant, “I know I paid for the gas. I’m not a thief. But just in case, here’s another $10.” The store clerk was stunned. She looked at me dumbfounded and said, “We’ve accused a lot of people of stealing gas. No one’s ever come back to pay before.” It’s been nearly 30 years since that happened. I’ve never forgotten it because the clerk was so dumbstruck that someone might be honest enough to either pay back what was stolen, or insist on their innocence, and pay again anyway. I walked out of that store knowing with confidence that I had protected my integrity.
Integrity is more than dealing honestly, or telling the truth, or doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. Integrity involves two important traits. First, integrity means that we are honest in every part of our being—our feelings, our minds, and our outward behaviors. But integrity also requires something extra. We avoid even the appearance of evil or sin in our lives—even if we are accused wrongly, even if it costs us, if it is uncomfortable or violates our rights, our integrity must be protected.
In this study we shall examine the characteristics of a godly person that has integrity. We’ll also learn how to become men and women who live in integrated life, where integrity permeates every part of our existence.