How do you respond under pressure? Not an on-the-job type of pressure, but the pressure you feel when life seems to tighten the screws to see if you will keep doing right, regardless of the consequences. Many people try to justify wrong behavior and simply do what they feel they have to, to get what they want–whether it is right or not. Yet that is not how God wants his people to live.
“Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21:19, NIV)
I have been reading Corrie Ten Boom’s wonderful book, The Hiding Place, to our daughter. In it, Father, arrested along with the rest of the family for harboring persecuted Jewish people, is given an opportunity to be released from prison:
“Suddenly the chief interrogator’s eye fell on Father…’I’d like to send you home, old fellow,’ he said. ‘I’ll take your word that you won’t cause any more trouble.’
I could not see Father’s face, only the erect carriage of his shoulders and the hall of white hair above them. But I heard his answer.
‘If I go home today,’ he said evenly and clearly, ‘tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.’
The amiability drained from the other man’s face, ‘Get back in line!’ he shouted. ‘Schnell! This court will tolerate no more delays!'”
When I first read this passage, I thought to myself, “Why couldn’t he have just agreed so he would be released, then continue doing the good he had before?” This, actually, is how many people think–that it is perfectly acceptable to do what you feel you need to do to achieve your goal. In this case, many would further argue that he would have been all the more justified in being less than straightforward because he was doing it for a good cause–to be able to continue to do more good. And while misrepresenting the truth in this circumstance may seem right to some, God holds us to a higher standard.
Integrity is defined as a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral…values : incorruptibility,” and it is the quality God expects of us when He allows us to be tested–when saying or doing what we know is right will cost us something.
There are many examples of where twisting the rules “just a little bit” can benefit us. Embellishing our resume–if not caught by a prospective employer–can give us an edge over other applicants. “Forgetting” undocumented income on our tax return can keep more money in our pockets. Neglecting to confess an infidelity can “save” a marriage. Failing to return wrongful gain keeps it in our pockets. Yet Christ says this is wrong, and we know so, not only because the Bible, but also our consciences, tell us so:
“They show that the requirements of the [God’s] 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 2:15 NIV)
So, do you stand firm when saying or doing what is right will cost you something? Before you give an emphatic, “Yes!” consider what you would do–how you would react–if it really cost you a lot. Jesus Himself teaches us to count the cost:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:28-33)
And while most of us in the Western world are not asked to give up our lives for the sake of Christ, we do need to understand that standing firm in our faith and doing right regardless of the consequences can cost us everything in this life:
“The letter had been opened by censors–held by them too: the postmark was over a week old. But it was a letter, a letter from home–the very first one! Why this sudden fear?
I unfolded the paper. ‘Corrie, can you be very brave?’
No! No, I couldn’t be brave! I forced my eyes to read on.
‘I have news that is very hard to write you. Father survived his arrest by only ten days, he is now with The Lord…
I pulled the cot from the wall and below the calendar scratched another date:
March 9, 1944 Father. Released.
Help me to stand firm in my faith, regardless of the cost! Amen.