This is Part 1 in a 4-part blog series on Integrated Faith. One problem I see with religious faith (both in my own life and the lives of others), is a lack of integration. Integration is defined as the organization of the constituent elements of a personality into a coordinated, harmonious, whole. Healthy spirituality involves the integration of one’s religious faith into one’s overall sense of personhood. Sometimes, however, the spiritual part of my life is out of step with the rest of myself. In this blog series, I want to share four common areas of disintegration, and discuss some ways to work toward greater integration our lives.
First, one source of disintegration occurs when what is happening on our inside doesn’t match what is happening on our outside. This is the definition of hypocrisy, and it is one of the most common stereotypes people have of religion and religious individuals. For example, maybe you are angry your co-worker, but you try to act nice and calm in your interactions with him, because you want to avoid a conflict. Or perhaps you believe that you should be faithful to your spouse, but you are having an affair with your neighbor. In both of these situations, the inside of the person doesn’t match the outside. There is a lack of integration.
Jesus had some harsh things to say to the Pharisees, who often had a mismatch between their inside and outside. Listen what Jesus had to say to Pharisees and teachers of the law in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:23-28).
The Pharisees and teachers of the law made a big deal about appearing moral and righteous on the outside, but Jesus doesn’t care about appearances—he focuses on what is in your heart. What can we do in our lives when what is on the inside doesn’t match what is on the outside?
- Be honest. The first step is to be open and honest about our mismatch and lack of integrity. In a way, this step actually brings you into more integrity, because it connects what is on the inside (i.e., your lack of integrity) with the outside (i.e., your honest disclosure of your lack of integrity). The first step is to acknowledge the areas of our life where our inside does not match our outside. Whether you confide with a trusted friend, counselor, or small group, find someone you can be completely honest with about your struggles with integrity.
- Drop the act. The second step is to stop worrying so much about your outside appearance. A big part of the problem with the Pharisees was their pride—they wanted other people to perceive them as holy and righteous. They couldn’t keep up this charade, however. Jesus saw through it. In the same way, what would it look like for you to drop your act and be okay with being an average person who is in need of God’s grace—just like everyone else? What would it take to replace your pride with humility?
- Focus on the inside. The third step is to focus on your own inside work. Throughout the Bible, Jesus is clear that what is important is what is on the inside of you. It’s not enough to avoid murder—the anger in your heart is an issue also. It’s not enough to give a tenth of your income to the church—is your heart oriented toward justice and mercy? This inside work is difficult work—and it takes a lot of time and effort. But it’s the only way to bring your inside and outside into greater alignment.
Discussion: What is one area in your life where your inside does not match your outside? What is one step you could take today toward being honest, dropping the act, and focusing on the inside?
Click here to read Part 2: Integration of Mind, Body, and Spirit