It’s been a bad start to the year for Boris Johnson, Novak Djokavic and Prince Andrew.
All of them have become headline grabbers, dominating the news. Each of them have backed themselves into corners that do not seem to have many escape routes. They only have themselves to blame. It’s hard to see any of them recovering with any integrity intact.
It’s easy for us to watch the stories of lies, scarcely believable excuses and examples of remarkably poor judgment and wonder how they thought they would ever get away with it. It’s easy to judge. I’m not sure how any of these situations will play out, except I think I know how they happen, because there but for the grace of God go I.
We lose integrity when we make decisions thinking no one is looking and that no one will find out. We think we will get away with things that if others knew, they would be shocked.
In the 1970s, as youngster sitting in church, I remember hearing Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:36.
I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter.
I can remember wondering how that would happen; was there some heavenly cassette tape recorder replaying all the things that had been said in secret?
Now I’m an adult I can see how the day of judgment comes quicker than you might expect. People hear and remember. Secrets get out. And not just for the rich and famous. There have been too many church leaders, teachers, care workers, fathers and mothers whose abuse of their authority comes to light 40 years later.
The truth is we can’t change the decisions we made in the past, but we can decide how we want our lives to be now. We can choose to live with integrity: always telling the truth, even when it is the difficult path; always choosing to put others first, even when it is hard. In short, we can choose to follow the way of Jesus. And we will do that because we know this is the right path and also because we sense the fear of not living like that. In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, this is how Matthew 12:36 is presented.
Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.
The men in the news will have to deal with the results of their actions in the past. What we can decide to do is live our own much more ordinary lives with an integrity that means we have nothing to fear.