Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 15, 2012


The constant choice between integrity and compromising the truth


            Daily we are all tempted to compromise the truth. Yet the case can be made that compromise is not all bad. After all, healthy relationships require compromise. And we all know that politically compromise is the secret of the democratic process.

            That is a persuasive argument. But before we embrace it, let’s look at the meaning of the word “compromise.” One meaning is “a settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.” That is good politics – so long as truth is not sacrificed.

            If, however, our concessions tend to weaken our morality, then we are probably compromising with the devil. The Evil One uses such compromise to lead us gradually away from the practice of integrity.

            One virtue of the Bible’s Job is his unwillingness, despite his suffering and the coercion of his friends, to compromise his faith. He refused to commit evil by telling lies. Truth was important to him. He recognized that he was accountable to God. He believed God had created him and that one day he would have to answer to God for his conduct.

            Integrity was more important than life to Job. Here is how he explained this to one of his friends: “But for as long as I draw breath, and for as long as God breathes life into me, I refuse to say one word that isn't true. I refuse to confess to any charge that's false. There is no way I'll ever agree to your accusations. I'll not deny my integrity even if it costs me my life. I'm holding fast to my integrity and not loosening my grip—and, believe me, I'll never regret it.”

            Is this just biblical talk or is it possible to live in today’s world with such integrity? I believe it not only possible; I believe I have known people who have valued integrity as much as Job did.

            My friend Frank Pierce was a “body” man. He fixed wrecked cars. Years ago it was rather easy to cheat on the repair of a car. The scheme involved repairing a car for one price and charging the insurance company a higher price. The paint and body technician would agree to split the difference with the car owner.

            My admiration for Frank grew enormously when he shared with me that he had lost a lot of business to other body shops because he would not agree to such deceit. Frank never made a lot of money; he never lived in a fancy home. However, when he died, his family and his friends knew that an honest man, who honored Christ in his work, had gone to be with the Lord. Frank’s integrity was not for sale!

            Job’s integrity was not for sale either. He vowed that lies would not fall from his tongue, no matter what. He insists that he will not betray his Maker. After all, God made him, and God gave him breath. So he declares that even with his last breath, he will honor his Creator by being truthful.

            Such a determined attitude reminds us of Methodism’s John Wesley who wished with his last breath to offer praise to God. We know that some people die with profanity on their lips, their final breath used for cursing, sometimes even cursing God. Wesley was praising God when he drew his last breath.

            I have witnessed such a death scene. I was present in the hospital room where a godly woman was dying. As her family listened to her faltering speech, she began singing the Doxology – “Praise God from whom all blessings flow….”  We joined with her and wept as, with her last breath she sang “Amen” as the song and her life concluded.

            Job was willing for God to examine his conduct. He was sure that he had not been guilty of hypocrisy. Most of us are not willing to go that far. We know how easy it is to make promises to God in church, then surrender them in the heat of everyday conflicts in ordinary living. If gossip is a story told about someone we dislike, we are tempted to repeat the story, even embellishing it. While it is difficult to let gossip die with us, we can “kill” it by refusing to repeat it. We all know the sick feeling that rises within us when we tell a story we should not have repeated.

            Job was so sure of his own righteousness that he could ask God for justice. His walk with the Lord was honest and true, without any hypocrisy. We know that is not true of ourselves. We must cry for mercy, not justice. We know that despite our best efforts our walk with the Lord has not been perfect. We are more comfortable praying with David, “Have mercy on me, O God,” than we are in praying with Job. We know we have sinned “and come short of the glory of God.”

            Job, on the other hand, was guiltless, at least in his own mind, and free even of the sin of idolatry. Here again, we are all nailed by idolatry, the sin of loving any “thing” more than we love God. Whatever is more important to us than God is an idol. God insists, remember, that “no other gods” be put before Him!

            Our idols can be many things. Hunting or golf can become idols for women as well as men. One man insisted that the Sunday worship services end promptly at noon. He had a tee time at 12:15. He wanted to worship God as long as it did not interfere with his golf game. When God is not in first place in our lives, we are guilty of idolatry. The only remedy is to renounce our idols and turn to the living God as people did under the inspiration of Saint Paul’s preaching.

            We know the inward turmoil that comes from “wanting everything” while also wanting to be genuine Christians. Materialism is like an octopus, its slimy tentacles always tightening their grip on us. We really want to serve God but we also want what everyone else has, often long before we can afford it. Finally, we must realize and admit that integrity has its price for us, as it did for Job.

            We can be thankful for the advantage we have over Job. When people falsely accuse us, as Job’s friends accused him, we can ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to respond to our accusers in love. We can confess our sins and know the inward joy of receiving God’s gracious forgiveness. We can trust the Holy Spirit to teach us the answers to hard questions. We can depend on the Holy Spirit to help us honor Christ in daily living rather than yield to temptation.

            We can walk in the light, holding the hand of the One who is the light of the world, and avoid stumbling pitifully in the darkness of rebellion. We can know, with greater certainty than Job had, that our Savior will never leave us.  

            As the songwriter put it, we can “walk with the Lord in the light of his Word.”

We can sing in daily life, “What a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.” We can know a joy that Job could not know because we live on this side of the Resurrection. Hallelujah!  +  +  +