June is the month we observe, celebrate, and lift up integrity.
When we describe a person as one who has integrity, we are saying they are honest, upright, and treat others with respect. We think of such people as well-integrated; they have faced their imperfections and weaknesses, and know they are God’s beloved even so.
When we describe a structure as having integrity, we are confirming the soundness of that structure, as in “despite the earthquake, the building has maintained its structural integrity.” In both instances, to have integrity is to be whole, upstanding, forthright, and reliable.
Digging a bit deeper into its meaning, integrity also implies having been challenged or tempted to compromise. Think of a time when you were pressured to go along with the group but did not because in doing so you would have compromised a core part of what you believe to be good or fair or loving. To have integrity is to risk being shunned, marginalized, even ridiculed. We honor our commitment to integrity because sacrificing what we know is good or loving would be like losing an essential part of our identity. To “live with integrity” is to know it will, at times, cause us discomfort or worse.
This weekend I will be in Coos Bay to participate in the commemoration of Alonzo Tucker, a Black man who was lynched in that community in 1902. This inhumane act was ignored for decades and would have been unknown for decades longer were it not for a young man who believes this piece of history must be retrieved and acknowledged. Despite concerns for his safety, he pressed on meeting with community leaders, ministers, rabbis, teachers to organize the event this weekend. I met with him, over Zoom, to hear how he was organizing the community to memorialize the violent injustice suffered by Mr. Tucker. It was clear from the beginning of our meeting that this young man has integrity.
We tend not to list integrity as one of the qualities of Jesus even though he surely was a man of integrity. For Christians, Jesus’ act of sacrifice was much more than a sign of integrity – it was a sign of his limitless capacity to love and forgive us. It was a salvific act.
Yet, perhaps striving toward a life of integrity is a way to begin to understand the meaning of salvation. To commit ourselves to walking with Jesus is to choose a journey into love for one another that is good. Our refusal to give up the journey may, at times, cause us discomfort or worse. Jesus embodied integrity and still reminds us that we stand the most upright when we lay-down our lives for another.