8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
There are so many lovely qualities in this passage, and they all bring to mind the quality of integrity. Google’s definition of integrity includes “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” and “the state of being whole and undivided.” Paul’s words, honorable, just and commendable, are ways of being honest and having strong moral principles. His words, true and pure, describe being whole and undivided. Our Lenten focus for today is this integrity Paul invites us to live.
Integrity has been described as having our actions match our words. Whew, that can be tough sometimes, can’t it? How often have we said we would do something, and then have forgotten or neglected to do it? (“I’ll pray for you.”) How often have we offered a kindness, but never meant to follow up on it? (“I’ll have you over sometime.”) How often do we tell a slight fib to cover up our mistake? (“Sorry I’m late, but the traffic was backed up” instead of, “I didn’t leave on time.”) Most importantly, how often do we claim to be a follower of Christ, but don’t live as one?
Paul’s words are helpful for us. For the integrity of being honorable, just, or commendable, we can grow as followers of Christ by practicing the things we “have learned and received and heard and seen.” When we “think about these things”- if we hold these beautiful qualities in our hearts- our words and actions may increasingly become more honorable and commendable. Our disciplines of practice and thought will gradually lead to life changes.
The integrity of being true and pure makes me think of the phrase, “what flows in, flows out.” Imagine a dirty bucket with a hole in the bottom. As we keep filling the bucket with clean water, the dirt will eventually be washed away and only clean water will flow out. The more we think about anything that is “excellent or worthy of praise,” the more our actions will reflect these qualities. If we fill ourselves with good things by reading the Bible, asking the Spirit for guidance, and allowing God to work in us, we will pour out the ways and love of Christ. We will live lives that are more genuine, true and pure.
Our reminder symbol for today is salt. Jesus tells us we are the “salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).” Wikipedia notes that the phrase, salt of the earth is “an English phrase referring to a person who is thoroughly decent.” Salt is pure and essential. May salt remind us to live with pure integrity as followers of Christ.
Spirit of God,
At this moment I want to please you. May I have the integrity to always want to please you.
I want to be honorable, just and commendable in your sight. May I consistently be so in all of my words and actions.
I want to be true and pure. May I fill myself only with your good gifts, so that my life will pour out only your pure love. Amen.