We are in a series about integrity. Integrity matters. Who you are matters. To prove my point, I want to ask you a question. Have you ever had a boss promise you something, then later, take that promise away? What did you think? You were disappointed, maybe furious, and you said to yourself, they have no integrity. To you, integrity matters in a boss or leader.
Here is another example. You go to school and you see someone talking to the teachers about going to church and being a good person. When you listen to them, they sound like a good kid. But when you see them around the school, when there are no teachers around, they act completely different. What do you say to yourself? They have no integrity. To you, integrity matters in someone who talks about being a good Christian.
As a spouse, as a parent, as a family, integrity matters. Integrity matters. Who you are matters. And, it matters to God. When God was deciding who the next King of Israel would be, this is what he told the prophet Samuel.
“Surely this is the LORD’s anointed!” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions.” NLT 1 Samuel 16:6-7
What was God saying? Don’t be fooled with image, what really matters is the heart, a person’s thoughts and intentions.
One of the challenges people have is when we are trying to figure out how to follow Christ is; integrity. That means, being the same person everywhere we go. The temptation we have is to compartmentalize our lives. We have a church life. A marriage life. A life as a single person. A school life. A work life. A family life. And in each area, we act differently. Why do we do that? We want to fit in. We want people to like us. So, when I am at school, I act like those around me. When I am at church, I act like a good church person. When I am at work, I act like those around me. It’s like being a chameleon.
Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant. NLT Galatians 1:10
What is Paul saying? I am a preacher and I don’t live to try to please everybody. If I did, I couldn’t call myself a disciple of Christ. Again, integrity matters.
When we compartmentalize our lives, we lack integrity. When we act differently depending on where we are, we lack integrity. What is interesting, if we see a lack of integrity in someone else, we don’t like it, but it can be the very thing we are doing.
Last week Sam came and talked about what it means to have integrity in a marriage. He did such a great job in that talk. I think my favorite line in that talk was when he said, outside of your relationship with God, your spouse is the most important relationship you will ever be in. As obvious as that might sound, it reminds us how important integrity is in our marriage.
This week, I want to talk about how to bring integrity into the family. I want to start with a couple of comments about family.
First, the family is one of the most important foundations to our culture. The healthier the family, the healthier the community. For example: If you lived in a community of 1,000 families and all 1,000 families had a loving father married to a loving mother and they loved their kids, that community would be healthy. Compare that to a community that had 1,000 families, that were broken, unhealthy and unable to support their kids. That community would not be as healthy. The family unit matters.
Secondly, the family today looks differently than the family of 100 years ago. We don’t live in Leave It To Beaver land. We have blended families. We have divorced families. We have divorced and remarried families. We have broken families from a parent passing away, drugs, alcohol, etc. We now are seeing in some areas where grandparents are raising grandchildren. The reason I say this is this, no matter what family you come from, the Jesus principle I want to share with later, works in every situation. And it applies to dating and being single.
Third, the family can be a crazy mess. What I mean is, I can preach on Sunday about loving others, and by the time I get home, one of my girls will call the other a loser. In family, we live so close to each other we do things we wouldn’t do to one another other places. We are so comfortable with each other, we just let things fly out of our mouths. We can say the most awful things to each other. And I think as a parent, we can wrongly assume, we don’t have a good Christian family. No, you have a normal family. Basically, when you bring kids into your life, it takes around 21 years for everyone to figure out who they are. Imagine two or three or four kids taking 21 years to figure out who they are. As a parent, it feels like you are hanging onto a rollercoaster and you aren’t strapped in. There are twists and turns coming and you are just trying survive.
Fourth thing I would say, in the crazy mess of family, the number one place where we learn about love and grace, boundaries and accountability. These lessons are really important to learn before you go into life. So as a parent, it’s so important to bring God into your family. As a child, it’s so important to be in the process of growing up. Growing up means, I no longer want to be selfish. I want to honor my parents and help my brothers/sisters. To not grow up means, I make everything about me, and I expect everyone to serve me. The family is that context where you grow up and grow out of that.
So, let’s recap. Family is the most important foundation in our culture. Regardless of the make-up of your family, the Jesus principle applies to everyone. Family is a crazy mess for at least 21 years. Lastly, it’s the number one place to grow up before you enter real life.
Kids: Family matters. It’s the place where you learn how to grow up. Probably the greatest way to grow up is to be honest. To teach you about honesty, I have ice cream. It represents honesty.
Honesty is like ice cream, it’s good! When you lie, that is like putting salt on your ice cream. It takes something that is good and ruins it. When we lie, we feel bad about who we are. When we lie, it hurts our relationship with your parents. What do we do if we lie, how do we get rid of that awful feeling? How do we get rid of the salt in our ice cream?
That’s who Jesus is. He cleans away that junk. He cleans away the salt. We can be honest again. So kids; family matters. It’s were you learn how to grow up. Probably one of the greatest ways you can do that is to be honest. Remember, honestly is like ice cream, it’s very very good.
That talk on honesty to kids is big deal. When we are able to be honest, we have integrity. For parents, I want to share two things with you and close. The first thing I want to share with you is spiritual. The second thing I want to share with you is practical. If you do these two things together, your family may not be perfect, but you will be bringing God into it.
First thing is to pray.
6 If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up. 7 Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.
8 Be careful-watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart. 9 Stand firm when he attacks. Trust the Lord. TLB 1 Peter 5:6-9
You need to understand that the family is the most important place for people to learn about love and grace, boundaries and accountability. Your family is under attack. I said ‘is’ because it’s happening right now. As parents, you need to be praying and inviting God’s presence into your family.
As parents, it’s your role to spiritually look out for your kids. To the best of your ability, gather around as a family, hold hands, and pray.
I must add that I hope you never make the mistake and believe the lie that says, my prayer isn’t powerful. Or, the prayer of someone else is better than mine. No. You are filled with the Holy Spirit, don’t believe those lies and don’t allow them from stopping you from praying.
Secondly, after we pray, we must decide to love even when it hurts.
26 “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests – look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.
27 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. 28 When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. 29 If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 30 If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
31 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! 32 If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. 33 If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. 34 If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
35 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – I promise – regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. 36 Our Father is kind; you be kind. MSG Luke 6:26-36
The Jesus principle here says, ‘Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them, even when it hurts.’
Do you want someone to build you up and encourage you? Then do that for your spouse and kids and parents.
Do you want someone to think about you and send you a text? Then do that for your spouse and kids and parents.
Do you want someone to stop criticizing you, stop criticizing others? Then do that for your spouse and kids and parents.
Do you want someone to forgive you for something you did? Then do that for your spouse and kids and parents.
I think the hardest thing as a parent is to walk in our own insecurity, experience our kids rejecting us, and continuing to reach out and love our kids. It’s how we love, even when it hurts.
How do we bring God into our families? Well, let’s start with the fact: family is a crazy mess and it’s awesome. So, pray. Spiritually ask God to protect and love you. Practically, love. Love even when it hurts.