Monday, January 23, 2012
Just Do The Right Thing!
There have been so many news stories recently that have hit on the subject of character and integrity that I just had to write about the subject. From Newt Gingrich and his womanizing, to the death of Joe Paterno after leaving a tarnished legacy, the landscape seems barren if you're looking for people to look up to. Besides this there are the people I know or have known closer to home, seemingly oblivious to the affect their bad decisions are having and will have on the people around them. I was reflecting on this recently in my own life. I want to finish well.
An article I read today drew attention to the dalliances of notables like John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Margaret Trudeau and many others. It's a sad reality that leads to so many questions. Is it just inevitable that everyone will fail? Can no-one be trusted? Does it really matter anyway? Who are we to judge? Why bother trying?
There's a parallel to our times in the Old Testament book of Judges. My brother reminded me of it this morning. Judges 21:25 says, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Since there was no-one to take charge, and the people had abandoned God, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. No absolute standard, no social mores to speak of, just everyone doing their own thing. What was the result of that kind of thinking?
A quick read of Judges reveals what you'd expect - anarchy. There are stories of murder, deceit, betrayal, disloyalty, adultery, etc... Sound familiar? When people no longer accept that God's standard applies to them, anything goes. Interestingly, the atheist philosopher Nietsche also predicted this. He believed that the atheist of the twentieth century would realize the consequences of living in a world without God, for without God there are no absolute moral values. Man is free to play God and create his own morality. Because of this, prophesied Nietzsche, the twentieth century would be the bloodiest century in human history. As T.S. Eliot said, "If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin."
My point is not that there is a direct line of cause and effect from abandoning God to immorality (even if that is true), but that there's been a gradual shift that has had devastating effects. I make no effort here to throw stones at atheists or agnostics and their lack of morality. I take exception, rather, to those who claim the name of Christ and yet have the morality of an alleycat and lack the courage of their own stated convictions.
I am a great believer and recipient of God's amazing grace, but this does not give us license to live debauched lives. The apostle Paul answered this directly in Romans 6:1-2. He asked and then answered his own question: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" No, there is a higher standard for us to reach.
I know that none of us are perfect, but we all need to raise the bar. We value qualities like courage, faithfulness and self-sacrifice because deep down we know they are right. Regardless of Joe Paterno's record and his accomplishments and high standing in his community, if he knew someone on his staff was abusing a young boy and did nothing to stop it, he was wrong. Unfortunately, that failure to stand up when he needed to will be a part of his legacy. If Newt Gingrich cannot be trusted to be faithful to his wife and has demonstrated a pattern of infidelity, how can he be trusted with running one of the most powerful nations on earth?
So, what are we to do? Recently I saw a program honouring the heroes of 9/11 - the first-responders. Brave men and women risked, and many lost, their lives unselfishly to save total strangers. I also recently watched the movie "Courageous," a new release challenging men to make and keep commitments. This world is crying out for men and women who will live lives of integrity.
I'm reminded of Billy Graham, one of the few public figures who towers above the landscape of the twentieth century. Billy decided early on that he would go the extra mile to ensure that not only his character, but also his reputation was protected. He and his team put guidelines in place to see that the finances of their organization were above board and beyond suspicion. He was instrumental in founding the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) which provided other similar organizations with the guidelines needed to protect their reputations.
He also took steps to keep himself from even a hint of sexual misconduct, refusing to meet privately with women and having staffers check his hotel rooms to be sure he could not unknowingly be placed in a compromising position. This may seem excessive, but Billy found it reasonable because of what was at stake. There are a great many people who would still love to find a skeleton in his closet. Billy is of the school that believes that if anyone has anything bad to say about you, just be sure they are lying.
Who are your heroes? Who would you seek to emulate? As a believer, my sincere desire is to be like Jesus Christ. I know I won't be perfect, but I think, following Him, I'll have better results than I would following the likes of Charlie Sheen. I want to be faithful to my wife. I have no desire to be a statistic. I want to set a good example for my sons and for my congregation. I don't want to ever have someone say that I took the easy way out. I don't want to see how much I can get away with, but rather what I can accomplish for Christ.
I want to do the right thing. So, each day I will try to start my day with God, inviting Him to lead me, recognizing that I can't do this alone. If I stumble, I'll quickly admit my error and get back up. I will guard my heart against wrong attitudes. I will look for and listen to wise counsel. I will remember that there are people who are watching me who will be affected if I fail. I will keep myself accountable, first of all to God, but also to my family and my church. I want to finish well. God help me.
Book Review: The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham
Billy Graham and Woody Allen
Men Without Chests
What To Do When You Fail
What's Your Integrity Worth?
Seven Keys For A Better Life