I doubt if anyone reading this meditation has been exempt from betrayal, of one sort or another. One of life’s most painful and disillusioning experiences is putting your confidence in someone who in turn lets you down. Perhaps you’ve shared something and made it perfectly clear that no one else is to know, only to have it become common knowledge by the end of the day. Or you trusted a life-long friend to honor their commitment to you only to discover that when you needed them most, they were nowhere to be found.
Solomon was right: “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” (Prov. 20:6). Well, I’ve found one! Jesus, who knows my works (Rev. 2:2,19; 3:1,8,15), Jesus, the first and last (Rev. 2:8), Jesus, who wields a sharp two-edged sword (Rev. 2:12), with eyes like flaming fire and feet like burnished bronze (Rev. 2:18), this very Jesus is “the faithful and true witness” (Rev. 3:14) who can always be trusted to do the right thing and speak the right word.
I’ve often told people that one of my favorite books is Stephen L. Carter’s Integrity (Basic Books). Carter, Professor of Law at Yale University, has written a powerful book reminding us of the meaning of integrity and its essential role in our individual lives and our existence as a society. Sadly, few have read it and even fewer heed its counsel.
Webster’s defines integrity as “firm adherence to a code of . . . moral or artistic values”, “incorruptibility,” “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” The word used to describe its antithesis is “duplicity”.
There is much truth in this description of Jesus in Revelation 3:14, but when I hear the words “faithful and true witness” I can’t help but think of integrity. Jesus is a man of integrity, a friend who will always prove faithful, a counselor whose words will never prove false. Yes, this descriptive title also has in view our Lord’s faithfulness to obey his Father’s will and to fulfill every purpose for which he was sent. There’s a sense in which “the faithful and true witness” is simply an expansion on the earlier declaration that Jesus is “the Amen” (Rev. 3:14). When he bears witness concerning the Father we can know he has provided an accurate portrait (see John 14:8-9).
But I see an extended application in this description of Jesus that points us to him as the preeminent person of integrity: faithful and true in all his dealings and all his declarations. In a word, he can be trusted!
Try to imagine a person who always honors his commitments, is never duplicitous or misleading or evasive in what he says, follows through on every promise, never fails to carry through on every obligation, passionately observes every law, is never wrong in his opinions, knows when to speak and when to remain silent, carefully avoids unedifying conversations, refuses to gossip, will always tell you what is most needful for your soul and will never utter so much as a syllable that might prove destructive or harmful. Got the picture? Now, think of Jesus.
When Jesus speaks or bears witness concerning a person or any particular state of affairs, or expresses an opinion or issues a warning, he can always be counted on for accuracy and honesty. When Jesus promises, he can always be trusted to follow through. He will never withhold from you what is needful for your spiritual growth. If he reveals something, it must be essential for your life, even if it’s painful and demanding.
These seven letters have been difficult at times. Jesus has said things we’ve not always wanted to hear. But he never pulled any punches. There were no idle threats. Every promise is rock solid. Much of what he’s said is painful, but it’s always productive. You never have to pause, upon reading a letter, and wonder: “Did he really mean that? Surely he can’t be serious.” Trust me, he seriously meant it! Every word.
Perhaps the clearest word on integrity is found in Psalm 15. Although it is designed to govern our behavior and inter-personal relationships, no one more fully embodied its principles than Jesus, the “faithful and true witness.”
For example, Jesus, more than anyone else, walked “blamelessly” (v. 2) in this life and never deviated from the path of righteousness. He “does what is right and speaks truth in his heart” (v. 3). Jesus never has and never will “slander with his tongue” (v.3) nor do “evil to his neighbor” (v. 3).
One statement in particular stands out to me. According to Psalm 15:5, the person of integrity is one “who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” The NIV renders it, “He keeps his oath even when it hurts.” In other words, his honor is more important than his wallet. When a principle is at stake, personal reputation matters little. He is willing to make whatever material and physical sacrifices honesty might require.
Jesus, the faithful and true witness, never paused to ponder the personal consequences of his words or deeds. His behavior was dictated by principle, not pragmatism. If the truth he uttered led to persecution and slander and, ultimately, crucifixion, so be it.
As for the church at Laodicea, on whose behalf Jesus identifies himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness”, they can rest assured that he doesn’t speak harshly without cause. They mustn’t take lightly or to any degree dismiss the warning he delivers. His analysis of their spiritual condition is spot on. His counsel for their recovery is infallible.
What this means for us, quite simply, is that we can and must embrace every word he has spoken and every directive he has issued, knowing that he never misleads, misspeaks, misguides, or makes mistakes.
Has Jesus, the faithful and true witness, promised forgiveness to those who confess and repent? Then rest assured that your sins are as white as snow. Has Jesus, the faithful and true witness, declared that he will never leave or forsake you? Then rest assured he is present, even now. Has Jesus, the faithful and true witness, revealed that he will cause everything to work together for the spiritual good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose? Then rest assured that he is graciously orchestrating the “mess” that you call your life for your ultimate edification and his eternal glory.