As a child did you ever sit in a circle with classmates, snap your fingers, and recite in rhythm … “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” This game might be better named, “What did you do when no one was looking?”
Like children, grown-ups also play this game in real life. Consider:
- Drivers exceeding the speed limit thinking, I won’t get caught
- Reporters fabricating facts that never even happened
- CEOs lining their pockets at investors’ expense
- Politicians making promises they never intend to keep
- Attorneys overbilling their clients to pad their income
If you asked any of these people, “Do you consider yourself a person of integrity?” most everyone would answer “Yes!” But true integrity means being the same in the dark as you are in the light. Integrity means being whole … undivided … solidly consistent.
People of moral integrity are not double-minded. They don’t pretend to have virtues that don’t exist. Their minds, wills, and emotions are congruent—not at odds.
On occasion I’ve been asked, “Can someone not believe in the Bible yet still have integrity?” It might surprise you to hear me answer, “Yes!” Let me illustrate.
A number of years ago, I was talking with a professional woman who had a mission to accomplish! You see, a homosexual gentleman friend of hers had recently moved to her city and she was looking for a homosexual male with whom he could have a relationship.
Interestingly, this woman grew up in the church, knew Scripture, attended seminary, and received her doctorate. Gently I asked, “Could you help me understand? I know you want to help your friend, but what do you do with Scriptures like Leviticus 18:22 that say homosexuality ‘is detestable’ to God?” She looked at me, paused a long time, and then responded, “I don’t look at that. I look at what is most loving.”
If you were to talk with this woman today and suggest she’s not a person of integrity, she would be incensed—for indeed, she considers herself a person of highest integrity. After giving this more thought, it struck me that she actually is a person of integrity because she’s consistent and whole within her system of situation ethics. She’s the same in the dark as she is in the light.
There are five systems of Ethics
Ethics is the study of various systems of right and wrong conduct. It examines good and bad motives, judgments, and consequences. The five systems of ethics are summarized below:
- Cultural Ethics. With no moral absolutes, moral standards are determined by popular opinion within a given culture. Hitler’s holocaust had official German sanction because the cultural relativists determined what was right for society.
But popular opinion can be wrong and can change. Truth is determined based on the Bible, which says, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29).
- Situation Ethics. With no moral absolutes, moral standards are determined by what appears to be most loving in each situation.
Decisions are made on assumed consequences instead of on eternal principles.But the Bible says, “I have set before you life and death . . . choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
- Emotive Ethics. With no moral absolutes, judgments of right or wrong are not valid. Since something can’t be wrong if it feels right, the focus is on feelings. Emotive ethics state, “To say, ‘rape is wrong,’” isn’t a legitimate statement. Yet you can state a feeling:
“I don’t like rape.”
But based on the Bible, emotions are not a dependable guide for our human behavior: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
- Behavioral Ethics. Moral absolutes don’t exist because morals don’t exist. All human behavior is the result of heredity or environment. According to behavioral ethics, Lee Harvey Oswald was not wrong for killing President Kennedy because he was “programmed” to murder.
But the Bible says, “. . . even though they [unbelievers] do not have the law . . . the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (Romans 2:14–15).
- Biblical Ethics. Moral absolutes absolutely exist. For the Christian, the unchanging Word of God determines our morals. Christ lives in us, revealing His character through us, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Understanding these five ethical systems is essential. If about another person you find yourself thinking, You don’t have integrity, you may be completely wrong. People can have integrity—living consistently within their own system of ethics—even if their system is wrong. By understanding what is missing in their lives and by letting them see Christ in your life, He can draw them to Himself and change their lives.
Let this be your daily prayer: “Lord Jesus, may I live my life the same in the dark as I am in the light so that others are drawn to You.”
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!