How do people generally define Christianity?
In the sphere of influence that surrounded me when I was a child in the ‘50s, I think the word which summed up what it meant to be a Christian, or simply a believer in God, was integrity.
You kept the commandments. You did not lie, steal, cuss, cheat on your spouse, or have pornography in your possession. One was to respect the church, even if one did not attend. Punctuality and cleanliness were exalted virtues. Working hard at whatever one did was expected; one was to be dependable as the rising and the setting of the sun.
Authority was to be honoured. Women were granted a special measure of respect and they were expected to set the highest of standards in their speech and conduct.
The value of integrity is mirrored in the words spoken in 1873 by Lord Dufferin, the monarch’s representative, appointed to oversee the affairs of government in the Dominion of Canada.
He had some reservations about the man he was about to install as the new prime minister, the honourable Alexander Mackenzie.
Mackenzie was not the usual politician. He had no background in law. He was a builder, a stone mason, who had also been the publisher of a political newspaper.
Although he had little formal education, he had considerable education through his private studies – he would have been called a self-made man.
After meeting Mackenzie, Dufferin remarked: “However narrow and inexperienced Mackenzie may be, I imagine he is a thoroughly upright, well-principled, and well-meaning man.”
Dufferin’s reflection on Mackenzie’s character is highly reflective of that invisible plumb line, which lined-up our national ethic in its formative years.
This reflection on integrity has two purposes.
The first is to compare the actual Gospel of Jesus to the perceived gospel. People thought they were being Christian by setting high standards for themselves and others – standards which, for sure, had their origins in the Bible and the character of Christ. Jesus didn’t set the bar at the level of highest personal achievement, like getting a high grade on a test in math (another strong value from years past), but on the ability of God to regenerate a new life.
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless less one starts life over again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God … unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” God’s display of his own righteousness in redeeming our corrupted nature by his own entrance into our inner person is not to be rejected in favour of high moral standards in our social fabric.
God, open our eyes to see the transforming work of Jesus in people! On the other hand, it would appear that we now have no national plumb line as we see fraud and deception become common practice from the Internet to Parliament Hill.
We are paying a huge price for a diminishing sense of integrity in our nation. Personal integrity in a nation’s citizens builds a strong nation.
So, yes, let’s do our best. Let each one of us be as upright, well-principled, and moral according to every decree God has established for us in the Scriptures. Let our conscience be smitten if we should, in any way, violate the law of God.
Then, let us, each one, have a glimpse of the love of God, which surpasses moral excellence, and say, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart, and fill me with your divine nature.”
– Martin Fromme is pastor of the Greenwood Evangel Chapel