One of the chief arguments of the New Testament is that followers of Jesus are to be people of
integrity. They are to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Followers of Jesus are to display the same
actions and attitudes in public that they do in the pew. The dictionary defines integrity as “the quality
or state of being undivided, completeness.” It means not living one way part of the time and another
way the rest of the time. A simpler definition is that integrity means doing the right thing when no one
is looking. But that simpler definition fails to capture the difficulty in being a person of integrity in an
age when the “right” thing is subjectively defined. For the follower of Jesus, walking in integrity means
living out in public what we profess to believe in private even when it may cost us something.
In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul discusses how we are to walk worthy of the calling we have received
in Christ (4:1). In Christ, we are no longer identified by or associated with our past sin. We have been
transformed by gospel, producing a new life that is completely separated from the old and bears no
resemblance to it. Paul then goes on to explain what that looks like practically, how it is actually lived
out. In the concluding paragraph (4:25-32), Paul draws a contrast between the walk of unbelievers
and believers, showing how genuine belief in the gospel requires a radical and complete change in
the believer’s actions and attitudes. Notice in these verses four aspects to walking with integrity.
Walking with integrity means speaking truth rather than practicing deception (4:25). Its easy to tell a
little white lie to get my way, to protect the feelings of another person, or to smooth the way during
conflict. But people of integrity must speak truth, albeit in love, in every situation. By speaking truth,
we declare a clean break with our past that was marked by deception, we advance biblical truth, and
we hold one another accountable to walk in that truth so that all benefit. People are free to disagree
with us but at a minimum they will know where we stand and why.
Believers should be grieved over sin while not engaging in sinful actions or attitudes. Watching the
news or reading the paper you now hold in your hands provides ample reasons for becoming angry
over the injustice in the world. Furthermore, believers are called to be agents of justice, righting
wrongs, and standing up for the powerless. However, our righteous indignation must not spill over
into sinful anger that breeds contempt, or bitterness, or leads to retaliation. Instead, we are to be
angry, and yet not sin (4:26). We do this by standing up for truth and by defending the glory of God at
every opportunity without committing the very injustices over which we are grieved.
Our words should build others up, not tear them down. Our tendency is to point out the flaws and
failings of people which tends toward judgmentalism, rather than to encourage them toward
repentance and faith in Christ that leads to spiritual life and growth. Paul said that by speaking in
ways that build up we extend grace to others (4:29). We show them who Jesus is and what he has
done for us by the words that we use. Walking in integrity requires that we appreciate our own need
of grace by showing it to others in the way we speak to them.
We should forgive as we have been forgiven. When we have an understanding and appreciation of
the forgiveness we have received in Christ, it frees us to be forgiving toward others. Perhaps the
greatest testimony that we have as believers is to show the world the kind and forgiving spirit of Christ
who died for them. Walking in integrity means resembling, in our actions and attitudes, the Christ who
died for us and forgave our sin while we were still sinners (4:32) thereby demonstrating that he can
do the same for them.