When the choice before us is between sin and suffering then we can know if we are true believers indeed by the choice we make.
A married man asks his wife for a temporary divorce in order to contract an arranged marriage abroad for the sake of a residency permit. A brother pays for a fake visa in order to go to the United States. A gentleman agrees to impregnate his sterile brother’s wife so the world would not know he cannot have children. Another Christian goes through certain “innocuous” rituals for the sake of a chieftaincy title. At a traditional wedding ceremony, libation is poured to the dead ancestors of the groom.
In most cases, the position is the same. “Everyone is doing it.” Yes, but a true believer is not everybody. We are in the world, but not of the world: “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think.” (Romans 12:2).
God makes a spectacle of believers. They used to send us to the lions’ den to see if we would lose our integrity and renounce our faith. Similar challenges still face believers today even if they are more subtle. A man of integrity will always be subjected to trials. Can our integrity withstand, for instance, severe hardship? Job said about God in his adversity: “He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10).
How can a Christian get on the bus when there are only three places but twenty people are rushing? How can a Christian clear his goods in the ports without bribing the customs officer? How does the daughter of Zion deal with her fiancée who insists that she must get pregnant before they are married? How do we handle the lecturer who demands sexual gratification as the precondition for passing our exams?
A child of integrity is steadfast and faithful to the end, in spite of the consequences. Yes, he is open to reason. (James 3:17). Nevertheless, he is unwavering in his fundamental beliefs. God says if we are established in his righteousness, we shall be far from oppression. (Isaiah 54:14). Therefore, even if we were to lose everything, we must not lose our integrity: “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek (God) with the whole heart! (Psalm 119:1-2).
A man of integrity is sustained by an inner spirit of excellence. This enabled Daniel not only to distinguish himself head and shoulders above his peers, but to also be uncompromising of his faith in the face of persecution. When the choice before us is between sin and suffering then we can know if we are true believers indeed by the choice we make: “Take heed, do not turn to iniquity, for you have chosen this rather than affliction.” (Job 36:21).
Salt and light
When we come into a place, do we change the atmosphere? That is the prerogative of a child of integrity. Mary took a jar of costly perfume, used it to anoint the feet of Jesus, and the house was filled with the fragrance. (John 12:3). Is a place divinely enriched by our presence? If not, then we are not kingdom citizens. People should talk differently because a believer is around. They should be uncomfortable behaving in a certain manner, or talking in a certain way, because we are there.
Jesus says: “Let me tell you why you are here. You are here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:13).
What does a man do to make a woman lose her integrity? He tells her lies, humours her, flatters her, tells her silly jokes, and tries to seduce her. “My sister, you look good enough to eat today.” Are you flattered by this kind of banter, or are you offended by it? A true believer should not encourage or entertain loose talk or “coarse jesting.” (Ephesians 5:4). We should let people know in no uncertain terms that we don’t appreciate that kind of talk.
Do we do what we promise to do? Do we tell people we are coming when we are going? Saying what we don’t mean is common practice even among Christians. We tell people we will pray for them when we know we won’t and don’t. We promise to help when we have no intention of doing so. We say we will write when we know we won’t. We say: “I love you” when we don’t. We promise marriage when we have no such intention. We tell a girlfriend to wait for us when we know we are not coming back. These transgressions seem to be minor. But they are grievous in the sight of God.
The propensity to tell lies is one of the distinguishing features of the kingdom of darkness. The Jews were convinced that they were the seed of Abraham and therefore appointed to salvation. But Jesus gave them a shocking revelation: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” (John 8:44).
Lying is demonic. Of the seven things God hates, three pertain to telling lies. (Proverbs 6:16-19). Lying is natural to “Adamic” man. Thus, Abraham was a liar; his son Isaac was a liar; and his grandson Jacob was a liar as well. These patriarchs can be forgiven; they were born of woman but not of the Spirit.
Lying is an indelible part of the “old man,” but it is anathema to the new creation: “Don’t tell lies to each other; it was your old life with all its wickedness that did that sort of thing; now it is dead and gone.” (Colossians 3:9-10).
We often tell lies in the bid to get out of trouble. But this reasoning comes from great deception. It is the truth that gets us out of trouble. Jesus says we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free. (John 8:32). Lies, however, just complicate the situation, with one lie needing another lie to cover it up: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the LORD, ‘who take counsel, but not of me, and who devise plans, but not of my Spirit; that they may add sin to sin.’” (Isaiah 30:1).
Like the biblical Jews, Christians today don’t seem to appreciate the gravity of our everyday habit of telling lies. I was standing beside an engineer in my office in Victoria Island and he had to take an urgent telephone call from a client. I heard him tell the man on the line he was not in Victoria Island but was speaking from the other side of town.
“How can you stand here and tell such a blatant lie?” I asked him. “Oh, that is not a lie,” he insisted. “That’s just business.”
Jesus says: “You do not know of what spirit you are.” (Luke 9:55).