Apr 10, 2018 by

by Rodney Green, Jubilee Centre:

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely. Proverbs 10:9

Science can only succeed when it is grounded in integrity. Sir Paul Nurse.[1]

Success without integrity means nothing. Hugo Boss.


Knowing to whom we are accountable lies at the heart of integrity. Is it self, public opinion or God? This paper aims to distinguish self-referential integrity from a Christian understanding of integrity that is accountable to Christ. Integrity faces counter-currents and riptides capable of causing our scattered self to drift, sometimes to drown. We will describe examples of these undercurrents to warn of their force; they are not always easy to discern and continually change direction and intensity to sweep us off our feet. We will also examine some of the flawed solutions that we fondly hope will be adequate to protect our integrity, but turn out to be a wholly inadequate selective moralism. Finally, we will attempt to define the key ingredients of Christian integrity in terms of moral accountability, relational consistency and personal discipline.


A person of integrity harmonises their thoughts, words and deeds. The Latin ‘integer’ means ‘working well, undivided, integrated, intact and uncorrupted’.[2] The Apostle Paul had integrity in mind when he wrote ‘what we are… when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.’[3] John Stott sees integrity where there is ‘no dichotomy between their public and their private lives, between what they profess and what they practise, between their words and their deeds.’[4] Dictionary definitions revolve around goodness, soundness, honesty, sincerity. ‘Integrity’ is not a single word in biblical literature, yet there are places where it is used to translate a range of words, particularly in wisdom literature:[5] true, holy, good, righteous, upright.

We admire integrity because it is uncommon. We recognise that a person may profess integrity while living a contradictory reality. However, definitions which focus solely on consistency could accommodate anyone who is consistently and sincerely misguided or evil. So we recognise that ‘integrity’ involves adherence to some moral standard – but what? A portmanteau of virtue undefined may be self-serving. Polonius’ aphorism, ‘above all, to thine own self be true’ is well-tuned to our individualistic culture. But Hamlet regarded Polonius as a tedious fool spouting clichés. Since we are finite, and our hearts are ‘deceitful above all things’,[6] being true to oneself can lead into a cul-de-sac of questionable preferences. Being answerable to public standards of conduct may be better founded: the Apostle Paul urges us: ‘Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.’[7] Yet public standards shift with public opinion over time. Jesus warns us that seeking public approval may lead to hypocrisy rather than integrity.[8] For the Christian, approval is primarily sought not from human opinion but from the Lord. This underpins our sense of responsibility and frees us from over-reliance on the approval of others.[9] Only in Jesus, the exact representation of God’s character, do we find pure integrity on which to ground our integrity. In Him alone there is no darkness at all, only faithfulness.

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