When the news is full of allegations of scandals and denials of scandals, the real question people are asking of public figures is this: are you, or are you not, a person of integrity? When the public figures deny scandal or try to convince people that
a) The public figure is innocent of the alleged misbehavior,
b) The alleged misbehavior is no scandal at all, or
c) Scandal or no scandal, this behavior has nothing to do with the individual’s public life and responsibilities.
Take the conversations surrounding the death of the US Ambassador to Libya on September 11, 2012, for example.
Those who call this episode a scandal believe that the president knowingly failed to provide protection and support to the Ambassador and his staff when they were under attack by militant Islamic extremists, and they believe that when all the facts are made public, it will be obvious that the President failed to do his duty as President. The President and administration spokespersons say:
a) The President had nothing to do with the death of the Ambassador,
b) The embassy had all the support it was entitled to, all the protection it had a right to expect, and nobody could have done any more than the President did, and
c) The whole thing was Hillary Clinton’s job, anyway, and she has both apologized for any mistakes and resigned from the job.
The public is ill served, by the way, by media reporting which is sloppy and unfocused. Whether the citizens want to know about Benghazi or the NSA database or Anthony Weiner’s qualifications to be the Mayor of New York City, media reporting seizes ferociously upon the most outrageous elements of any story and writes headlines that make the outrage appear to be even more dramatic, but they do not find the facts and tell the facts and keep the facts in the public eye while the public sorts out what their employees are actually up to. Yes, the President of the United States is an employee of the citizens of the United States of America. So is everyone who works for the NSA. A candidate for mayor of any city is applying for the job of being the employee of the people of that city. These people are not chosen to control and manipulate the people; they are chosen to do work that the people want done, and they are accountable to the people for doing it.
If you work for someone, you understand this principle. If you steal money from petty cash or if you lie about your credentials to do the job you are being paid to do, you know to expect consequences when this behavior becomes public knowledge. If your employer is unhappy with your work, you expect to be held accountable for fixing the situation.
This is life. This is the way life works. In all our relationships, friends, spouses, and business colleagues expect honesty in our interactions. People expect that they will see in your life the reality of all the things you say about yourself. The word for that expectation is integrity. People expect integrity in relationships, and they feel betrayed when they don’t get it.
God expects integrity, too. When God wrote down ten things people absolutely, positively need to get right, speaking truth was on the list. Pick any translation of the Bible that you like, and there it is:
Thou shalt not lie – or other words that mean the same thing.
If you prefer a positive spin, then Thou shalt speak truth.
There is a psalm that puts it quite succinctly: Psalm 15
1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
2 He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.
Do you know anyone like this?