Integrity versus Perfection
Living in the public square and the fishbowl of Pastoral ministry, I have often felt the pressure of being dissected by others. As a PK (aka Preacher’s Kid), this comes with the terrain. Even more, being the “kid” of a man and minister (William Lanier Pullam) who could do no wrong to me as a Christian, husband, father, spiritual leader and friend to others, in a small town where everybody knows everyone…could often be a challenge. I’ve met countless PK’s who developed a sense of resentment, even anger, towards the church and church leaders because of the display of hypocrisy, duplicity, inconsistency and the like exemplified by people in the church. This breaks my heart. On the one hand it breaks my heart because the church can be such a ‘messy’ place. Church people, in the scripture, are likened to sheep. Sheep get dirty. Tragically, we often fail to comprehend our ‘sheepish’ comparison and reality. On the other hand, I think that we subconsciously lift people to a standard that they can never realistically attain. It is really a standard upon which only Christ can be seated.
I began blogging in 2006. And over the course of the past twelve years (particularly the past several) I have blogged less and less. For me, writing and blogging has been cathartic; and it has been a way for me to process my thoughts and to shape direction in my own life. But, as my life moved more into a public light, I felt as if my quest for integrity became stifled. It would irk me to blog about something; and then the next several days become aware of how my life did not reflect what I had written about. After a while, I no longer knew what to write about…so enamored in how I might contradict what I’d said…if just a minuscule deviation of my words or thoughts.
Then I read that the definition of perfection is “without blemish”. Interestingly, those who are in Christ are “without blemish.” But the key difference in what tormented me and what the scripture says about being unblemished is crucial: one is built on LAW; and the other is settled in GRACE.
The law tells us to “Do.” Grace informs us it is “Done!”
The law teaches us that we have missed the mark; and grace reminds us that Christ has won the race and settled the debt.
In Psalm 17, David asks the Lord to vindicate him, and to protect him from his enemies and foes. I find it interesting that David uses as his collateral to God’s answering his prayer is his integrity. Really? David? The notorious rebel of the Old Testament? It is then that we must understand that integrity is not perfection. It is exposing one’s self before the sovereign Lord; and giving God a heart of surrender. We often quote David as being, “A man after God’s heart.” Kenneth Ulmer has said, “The issue was never David’s heart. It was the heart that David was running after.” I contend!
We will fail. We will make mistakes. We will be imperfect. Integrity understands this where perfection cannot. Integrity also gives permission for others to fail, make mistakes and be imperfect.
Granted…this is not a license to live a double-faced, reckless, ungodly life. We should want, more than anything, to walk the lives that we talk. As Christians, spouses, parents, disciples and leaders…this should be our aspiration. It is my sincere hope and prayer to live in a way that reflects the character of Christ (amid my own imperfections), in a way that ultimately points to God’s glory.
I don’t need to be perfect; because Jesus was; and because He is. You don’t either. His grace is sufficient where the law and man’s standard falls way too short. Live in this truth and act like you’re free…because you are!