In the Marine Corps, I was taught that being a good Marine included being a man of integrity. Integrity, as defined by the Corps, meant “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” For the four years that I was enlisted I largely thought of myself as an integrity-based man and thus, among other reasons, a good Marine.
Since then I have struggled to maintain as strong a sense of integrity, not because its definition has changed very much, and not because I have changed all that much (unfortunately), but because the definition of “the right thing” has taken on a much deeper meaning.
The right thing used to mean being the type of Marine who picked up trash when no one was requiring it to be done. It meant going for a run on Saturday morning in order to improve my three-mile run time even though it wasn’t required or expected. Doing the right thing meant going beyond the minimum requirements, learning more than the essentials, and being prepared for more than what was anticipated. And these things I did, quite pridefully.
But then I met Jesus. And if you’re not a believer–look, I get it. I can hear your eyes rolling. Mine would be if I were you. But that’s the truth. I began reading the Bible and through it found a redefinition of integrity that allowed me to see just how far out of alignment I was.
Doing the right thing still included going beyond life’s minimum expectations, but in light of the Lord’s living example, it also included loving the seemingly unlovable, showing compassion for the most heinous of criminals, and–what might be the most difficult of standards, personally–maintaining a sense of intentional sexual purity.
Integrity suddenly included not taking the second, third or fourth lustful glance, but instead acknowledging the beauty of a woman for the wonderful and respectable creation of God’s that it is. Integrity, as defined by Christ, meant not using pornography to satisfy the sinful appetite of my flesh, but instead trusting the God who reminds me that sexual pleasure is best experienced exclusively in the context of marriage. Integrity meant doing the right thing not that I might impress God or earn his favor, but as an obedient demonstration of my trust in him as my Lord and the one who I believe knows what is best for me.
I want to walk my talk, and I want to live free from hypocrisy. I want to realize the insufficient joy found in sinful pleasure, and be absolutely convinced that the greatest joy is found in obedience to him.
Lord, give me the ability and desire to walk according to your word with integrity and joy.