Integrity through persecution

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 5:10

Endure harmful pursuit for doing what’s right, and you will be blessed, having possession of the Kingdom of God.

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments. In our day, the concept of persecution has been trivialized into essentially any notion of being ridiculed or spoken out against.

However, in biblical terms, the concept of persecution conveys the act of having to flee from those who are intent on injuring or even killing those who have opposing viewpoints.

In denouncing the corruption of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua foretold the horrendous actions they would perform on the “prophets, wise men, and scribes” that would be sent to continue to warn them of their wickedness:

Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Matthew 23:34-36

He also warned his followers that they would experience these things in standing for the truth of his words:

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake.

Luke 21:12

History bears out that this is exactly what happened, and believers were hunted and rooted out of synagogues for believing in Messiah. They were scourged, stoned, imprisoned, and killed for maintaining the integrity of their faith.

This is a far cry from those today who claim persecution because of receiving negative comments on social media, or having others simply disagree with their views and call them names. While maintaining our integrity is still just as valuable in those situations, to claim those inconveniences as persecution is dishonoring our spiritual forebears who quite literally put their lives and the lives of their family members, their very daily existence, at risk because of their views of Messiah.

While there are areas of the world where legitimate persecution for the kingdom still exists, we can be truly thankful to God that in free societies our voices can be heard, and our lives are not daily in jeopardy for believing in, and sharing the light of, his Messiah.

This should motivate us all the more to demonstrate integrity by maintaining the truth of our faith in all of our words and actions, and in our relationships and interactions with those around us.

Meekness that moves mountains

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

Conduct yourself with mildness and gentleness, and you will be blessed as an inheritor of the whole world.

Most English translations of this verse use the words like meek or humble instead of gentle to designate those who will be blessed as inheritors of the earth. As is typically the case, in shifting between languages certain meanings are lost and others are gained. What Yeshua is expressing here is not timidity or weakness, but rather strength that is under complete control, having the ability to demonstrate great power without harshness. This is a vital ingredient in the make up of the integrity of a believer.

It’s a non-intuitive way of viewing power in general, as we typically associate power with directness and abruptness of absolute authority or influence. However, the quality spoken of here is one of constancy of purpose and direction, yet having the ability to convey that definitive purpose in a way that is steady and unyielding but without being severe.

Biblical meekness or gentleness can be likened to a forest stream as it winds its way down a mountain in the wilderness. The power of the water is steady and unyielding, yet it doesn’t flow in a straight line from the top of the mountain to the lake into which it empties itself. It flows over and around rocks and obstacles as it makes its journey, softening the edges of hard rock and scooping bits of soil and pebbles in its path and carrying them away. Over time, its effects become more prominent as the channel for the stream becomes deeper and more defined. While, from one perspective, the water can be thought of as yielding to the hard rocks along the way, it is actually molding, shaping, and moving the mountain as it flows over and around the rocks and pebbles in its path,

This is the concept of biblical meekness or gentleness: strength under control, flexible but unyielding, having a powerful purpose but adapting to its environment while accomplishing its ends.

As believers express this integrity of gentleness in expressing God’s powerful purpose ar0und them, anything is possible. This is the type of power that truly inherits the earth.

Lighting the way for others

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Be shining: let your good practices be seen by all. Magnify God.

The life of a believer is a life that is all about others. It’s not just about receiving light for your own path, but about lighting the way for those around you. As that light is received, they can recognize and honor God for who he is.

We don’t have the luxury of receiving wisdom from God simply for our own benefit and use. That does not align with our integrity. Integrity is not only about doing the right thing, but doing the right thing in the sight of, and for, others. In fact, integrity doesn’t exist until it can be demonstrated to someone else, whether it be God or your neighbor.

The reality is that the truth of God can’t be contained. As you act with integrity based on the wisdom you have received, your good works make a difference in the lives around you. Those acts of integrity then act as a light for others who see the consistency of your beliefs and your actions. When that happens, God is magnified, that is, brought closer in reality to them.

Put your lamp on the lampstand where it belongs. Together, our collective lights become a city of righteousness that magnifies and broadcasts a beacon of God’s truths to our world, and a generation of those living in the darkness can be drawn to him.

Blinded by hypocrisy

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5

Don’t be hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is readily understood by all people. Hypocritical actions are the basis of lost trust, strained work relations, and broken friendships. Hypocrisy undermines the integrity of those who exemplify it.

Within each individual there must be a deep desire for fairness and justice, otherwise hypocrisy would be meaningless. Recognizing hypocritical actions demonstrates how all people, regardless of religious beliefs, have the ability to discern a measure of rightness or equity.

When someone doesn’t hold themselves to the same standards they expect of others, they reveal a moral deficiency that invalidates their position. They can become blinded to the true state of any given situation, and then remain unable to be an effective help those around them.

This is why it is critical that we as believers maintain a consistent worldview in all matters of any moral depth. Our ability to maintain our integrity reflects on the One whom we represent, and the kingdom he is establishing. When our integrity is intact, we then have the clarity of vision to keep our own way pure, and also to provide that exemplary guidance as a light to others.

Integrity and Righteousness

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 3

Integrity is more than just doing the right thing when no one is around – it’s about doing the right thing from the heart in all situations. Uriah the Hittite exemplifies this aspect of integrity.

Episode Notes

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses [that] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:20

This principle is summed up by its paraphrase: “Demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands.”

A life of integrity is one that is not driven solely by a list of do’s and don’ts. Right actions should spring from a willing heart, not from a grudging sense of obligation. It’s not just a matter of doing the right thing, but doing the right thing for the right reasons, with the right attitude.

The example of Uriah the Hittite – 2 Samuel 11

Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and a present from the king was sent out after him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. Now when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.”

Once the heart is sincere and motives are pure, actions of true integrity will follow.

Right Actions Sustain Life

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Matthew 5:6

Crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied. A craving is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated.

Hunger and thirst are the body’s urgent indicators that nutrition and fluids necessary and vital for life need to be ingested as soon as possible. In like fashion, a believer cannot deny the indicators of holy injustice and inequity which can only be satisfied with right actions. Just like the correct food and drink allow us to live healthy lives, believers thrive on righteousness.

Be a Person of your Word

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Matthew 5:33-37

Be a person of your word, not requiring any oath to substantiate your actions. Simply say yes or no, and do what you say.

The beauty of integrity is in its simplicity. It is uncomplicated sincerity with nothing to gain, and nothing to lose. It is liberating; it allows you to live free of extraneous and unnecessary commitment. You are elevated in the eyes of God and others when you are known as one who can be relied on because you always do what you say.

Living with Integrity

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses [that] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:20

This principle is summed up by its paraphrase: “Demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands.”

A life of integrity is one that is not driven solely by a list of do’s and don’ts. Right actions should spring from a willing heart, not from a grudging sense of obligation. It’s not just a matter of doing the right thing, but doing the right thing for the right reasons, with the right attitude.

Once the heart is sincere and motives are pure, actions of true integrity will follow.