"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27)True integrity is found in how we behave when no one is looking. It is one thing to behave right when someone is watching over us, but it is another to live right when no one is watching and where no one can see. It is in these hidden places where the truth of who we are is revealed.
The grace of God has come to change us, not superficially, but at the very center of who we are. Jeremiah prophesied, "'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people'" (Jeremiah 31:33) Herein lies the difference between law and grace. The law can only affect us externally; it only controls us to the extent to which we remain in relationship to the law. Once we are out from under the law we revert to our old habits of sin and selfishness. How many times have we seen where young adults leave the domain of their parents for college only to give themselves to licentious and prodigal living? How many times have we seen where someone leaves a very legalistic church only to be found more bound to sin than ever before? The law tells us to be good on Sunday and when everyone else is watching, but when we are out from under the purview of the law, sin runs rampant.
The law can never change us in the secret place, that place where no one else sees us but God. Only the grace of God can change us and save us from ourselves. Paul wrote of God's grace, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:11-12 NKJV) When we listen to the law, we merely learn new external behaviors, but when we listen to the grace of God, we learn new ways of living. It is God's grace that not only instructs us how to live but also produces those changes within us as well.
The word Paul uses here that is translated as "conduct" is a derivative of the Greek word "polites" which is akin to our word "politics" and has reference to a citizen or town's person. This word for conduct has to do, not only with how we behave as an individual, but how we live as a citizen with other citizens. Our conduct is not merely a private matter but is also to be viewed in a larger corporate sense. It not only refers to our private thoughts and secret habits but also has bearing on how we related and live to others. Furthermore, it carries with it a sense of duty. Each of us has a duty, as citizens of God's kingdom, to live in right relationship and cooperation with other citizens of the Kingdom. Here, specifically, Paul mentions our duty to ensure the unity of faith, purpose, and love. As citizens, we have a corporate responsibility to one another and to the common purpose and faith that binds us together as fellow citizens. We no longer live to ourselves alone but also for the greater good of the Kingdom to which we belong. Our integrity is not only individual integrity but integrity to our duties as citizens. It requires a larger view of life that includes others besides ourselves.